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henever I talk to people about Blender, I often hear the same things: “It’s confusing”, “The UI is hard to get used to” and “Is free software actually any good?” The list goes on. These are all valid comments – it can seem daunting at first glance, the standard UI is far from ideal and the idea that a free tool is as capable as other premium packages worth thousands of pounds often defies popular belief. As creative people, we’re pretty good at refusing to take things at face value, but based on feedback I’ve had it certainly seems like a large proportion of artists

have turned their backs on Blender before really getting into the nitty gritty – both in terms of the software itself, and also the community. Take it from me: the Blender community is fun, collaborative and friendly. As for the software, there are loads of ways for you to tailor it to your own specific needs. This is something we’ve investigated in our cover feature. We’re talking hotkeys, scripting, UI tweaks and plenty of other tricks that will get you steaming ahead in Blender, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a complete beginner. If you’ve never tried Blender, just remember that there’s rarely a right or wrong way to create art – trying new things is absolutely essential.

Disclaimer The publisher cannot accept responsibility for any unsolicited material lost or damaged in the post. All text and layout is the copyright of Imagine Publishing Ltd. Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the publisher. All copyrights are recognised and used specifically for the purpose of criticism and review. Although the magazine has endeavoured to ensure all information is correct at time of print, prices and availability may change. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to Imagine Publishing via post, email, social network or any other means, you automatically grant Imagine Publishing an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free license to use the material across its entire portfolio, in print, online and digital, and to deliver the material to existing and future clients, including but not limited to international licensees for reproduction in international, licensed editions of Imagine products. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Imagine Publishing nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for the loss or damage.

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This issue’s team of pro artists

HAN LAMPEL Jonathan has taken time out of his busy schedule at to show you how to use Blender to model and pose a dynamic sci-fi character. His tutorial is over on p54. 3DArtist username JonathanL As you know, 3ds Max 2017 was recently launched, bringing with it a wealth of new workflow features. Modelling has had a bit of a revival, and Paul shows off some of the new tools on p60. 3DArtist username Phatton



JARROD HASENJAGER More and more film-makers are relying on VFX for blood and gore nowadays, rather than pestering the makeup department. Santiago shows you how to accomplish this in Fusion on p64. 3DArtist username SantiagoM This month, Mike joins us from the Digital Media Arts College in Florida, USA. On p68 he uses a combination of ZBrush and iClone to speed sculpt a character and prepare it for animation. 3DArtist username n/a There are plenty of ways to achieve believable materials, but Jarrod is on hand to take you through his expert approach in Houdini. Be sure to check out his fantastic video tutorial on FileSilo, too. 3 Artist userna e Hasenjager


PAUL CHAMPION Compositing expert Paul has cast a critical eye over NUKEX 10 over on p80 and asks whether the new features are worth the upgrade. Also, he’s written some news! 3DArtist username Rocker

Tor is art director at MachineGames, the awesome developer behind Wolfenstein: The New Order. On p82 he takes MODO 10 for a spin to try out the new game-centric features from The Foundry. 3DArtist username Snefer


PAUL HATTON Adam joins us for the first time this month to show off his considerable modelling and materials chops in Blender. Jet fighters look amazing when they’re done as well as this. 3DArtist username adamnordgren

There a e so many professional GPUs out there now that you should be listening to people like Orestis before investing. He’s put the new PNY NVIDIA Quadro M2000 to the test on p78. 3DArtist username n/a



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What’s in the magazine and where

News, reviews & features 12 The Gallery A hand-picked collection of incredible artwork to inspire you

22 7 Ways to Create the Perfect Showreel Framestore, Envy and MPC reveal what you can do to impress recruiters


30 Building Underwater Worlds: The Art of Finding Dory We chat with Pixar's John Halstead about the technical demands of the new movie

36 65 Pro Hacks for Blender Discover the best ways to speed up your workflow and customise the software

74 Subscribe Today! Save money and never miss an issue by snapping up a subscription

76 Technique Focus: Light House Kless Gyzen talks about how he produces stunning art in Blender

78 Review: NVIDIA Quadro M2000 PNY's latest professional graphics card is put through its paces

80 Review: NUKEX 10

I like to spend more time on sculpting and less time on setting the scene up Yanal Sosak reveals his secrets for a faster Blender

We get stuck into The Fo top-of-the-line composit

82 Review: MODO 10 Tor Frick from MachineG the new game-centric re

Photoreal modelling & materials in Blender

85 Technique Focus: The Gumball Machine Paul H Paulino explores

8 Technique Focus: Ori i hlights his ap ki

Model and pose a dynamic character NVIDIA Quadro M2000 8

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7 Ways to Create the Perfect Showreel

The aesthetic for the movie is a caricature of reality: it’s based in nature but it’s cleaned up a bit John Halstead on how Pixar built underwater environments for Finding Dory Page 33

The Pipeline 46 Step by step: Photoreal modelling & materials in Blender Work from references to model, texture and render a jet aircraft

54 Step by step: Model and pose a dynamic character CGCookie’s Jonathan Lampel builds an action-focused scene

60 Pipeline techniques: Master 3ds Max’s new modelling tools Get started with some of the marquee additions to Max 2017, including fast-form hard surfaces

64 Pipeline techniques: Create a customisable pool of blood Utilise Fusion to master a useful effect for film projects

68 Pipeline techniques: Create a custom character for animation Combine ZBrush with iClone to speed up your character pipeline


Master 3ds Max's new modelling tools

70 Pipeline techniques: Build bronze materials and shaders Harness the power of Houdini and achieve your best-ever metals with Jarrod Hasenjager

The Hub 88 Community news The BFX Competition gets underway for 2016 and Krita gets itself Kickstarted

90 Industry news Autodesk reveals its Industry Collections – handy bundles of your favourite 3D apps

Create a custom character for animation Visit the 3D Artist online shop at for back issues, books and merchandise 60

92 Project Focus: Mirror's Edge Catalyst 68

We speak to EA DICE and Geomerics about the challenges that real-time lighting presents

96 Readers’ gallery The very best images of the month from 9

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Jordan Soler & Felix Ferrand Felix and Jordan work together. They found a perfect balance and complete each other Software ZBrush, Arnold

Work in progress‌


This time we wanted something different – a new challenge. Creating an animal was so much fun to do but also very challenging! It was such a good way to learn more about sculpting and grooming Jordan Soler & Felix Ferrand, Sleepy Bear, 2016


This was born from the desire to explore my low-poly style and push it further. I was thinking about exploring low poly on the edge of toy/ product design for a long time now, and it has ďŹ nally happened Mateusz Szulik, The PolyWood: Deer, 2016

Mateusz Szulik Mat is an art director, illustrator and 3D artist living with his family in Poland Software 3ds Max, V-Ray

Work in progress‌


I was inspired by the movie Salem’s Lot. The two front fangs of the vampire in this movie caught my eyes as they are distinct from other vampire movies. Therefore, I decided to do a new version of a vampire and add in my own fantasies to give the vampire a different image

Chen Binqi Binqi is an art lead in Singapore. He was previously character lead at Ubisoft Shanghai Software Maya, ZBrush

Work in progress‌

Chen Binqi, Vampire Pirate, 2016 15

This is my entry for THU Reborn. I wanted to portray a scene where, after the war, the THU world is in peace. This old warrior doesn’t have to go to war anymore, instead he spends time with his grandchild – protecting and guiding them towards a better future Khiew Jit Chun, New Chapter of Life, 2016

Khiew Jit Chun A modeller and digital sculptor, Khiew Jit Chun works on VFX features and animations Software Maya, ZBrush, V-Ray, Photoshop

Work in progress…


Tamas Medve An architectectural illustrator, Tamas has worked on some notable architectural projects Software 3ds Max, Photoshop

Work in progress‌

I was always interested in sci-ďŹ and art environments. This image started as a lighting study, but after a while it became something bigger. All of a sudden, a sort of story started to emerge Tamas Medve, Infestant, 2016 17

In depth

Dylan Collins Dylan loves designing and building game worlds to excite players’ curiosity Software Maya, Substance Painter, Substance Designer

Work in progress‌

This is a model that I designed, created, textured, rigged and animated over the course of various projects while attending Ringling College of Art and Design. My goal was to create a robotic character designed to have interesting mechanical movement Dylan Collins, Eggsterman-8R, 2016



Upon creating the model, I decided to explore bringing it through the full process by setting up a rig, creating animations and getting it into a game engine. Currently, I’m working on building out a scene for this character to navigate, and I’m interested in one day developing it into a fully playable game Dylan Collins, Eggsterman-8R, 2016

MATERIALS ABOVE For me, an essential part of creating materials is defining what different large sections of the model are made of. For instance, I knew I wanted the head to be made of plastic, but I wanted the white part to be smooth and reflective, while the red, painted parts would be a little more rough. I also mixed a variety of different metal types on the model, such as a brushed aluminium on the measuring cup and steel, nickel and copper on the spoons and forks. I tried to pay a lot of attention to the roughness map while working. I gave different overall values to the separate pieces of the mesh to build interesting contrasts in reflectivity.

PLANNING ABOVE I started by drawing out plans for the chicken robot and gathering relevant references. I created a model sheet with back, front and side views as well as diagrams of how the legs would extend to give me an idea of the form and function of the model. I also created a painted three quarter view to get an idea of the different materials on the model. I created an isometric drawing of the environment the chicken would be in. These drawings gave me a plan for when I was ready to start making it in 3D.


MODELLING ABOVE The upper half of the image shows the general process of modelling. First, I started blocking out the proportions and broad first read details with simple geometry. From there, I started refining the forms to define functionality better. I increased the size of the fork to make it seem like it could support the weight of the chicken better. Finally, I added smaller third read details. I added a rim and spout to make the lower body read more as a measuring cup, as well as some dents to suggest battle damage.


RIGHT A key aspect of integrating the model into the kitchen environment is the lighting and composition of the shot. I wanted to accentuate the silhouette of the chicken and make it the focal point. The upper middle image shows a simplified depiction of the pattern of light and dark. I wanted the chicken to have a dark shape punctuated by the bright light behind. To achieve this, I added some shafts of light behind the chicken. The shafts are made with a simple plane that adjusts its position based on viewing angle through the spline thicken material function. There’s a good example of how to use this in the Unreal Engine blueprint examples level. To get variation in the light shafts, I combined different grey masks. The light shape mask is applied to the plane, and ensures that the light fades and softens towards the edges. The light ray mask is multiplied on top to cut shafts of light into the overall shape.





SHOWREEL Discover how to help kickstart your career in 3D by putting together a strong showreel with your finest work


he showreel or portfolio is the first thing that employers will look at and is “most certainly someone’s calling card when it comes to getting a job,” says Amy Smith, global head of recruitment at Framestore (framestore. com). That doesn’t mean that CVs, work experience and recommendations aren’t important, but as Smith notes, “We always appreciate recommendations from our existing team but we don’t give recommendations any kind of preferential access to roles: we always come back to who has the best showreel at the end of the day.” At Envy ( most of the junior artists taken on are “home-grown from our runner contingent of 40 plus,” explains head of client services Tom Morgan. “Runners intending to pursue a career in 3D/VFX build relationships with members of staff they wish to train with (via our internal academy). These runners clock up training hours and eventually move into a junior

position [at] our VFX MCR or Media Logistics department, where they continue training but at a more advanced level. When a 3D junior artist position arises we therefore recruit for this internally not externally.” Showreels are valuable at both stages of selection, and artists continue to produce them even as their career develops. “The showreel is essentially an artist’s shop window,” explains Omar Morsy, global head of talent acquisition at MPC ( “It determines whether or not we will engage further so, on that basis, it is fair to say that it is the most important aspect of an initial application.” Morsy notes that MPC does consider the “education of junior artists and we are cognisant of the course content from most of the major schools within Europe and North America. We can often benchmark students based on the schools they have attended but we always approach a reel with an open mind, regardless of its origin.”





If there’s one thing that everyone agrees on, it’s that showreels should be kept pretty short. For Smith, “A showreel shouldn’t be more than two minutes long but can be shorter if necessary. There have been cases where we have hired people who have only had one piece of work on their reel (it has to be really good if that’s the case!) but most reels will have three to four strong pieces at a junior level.” Morgan agrees, explaining: “I like showreels to be one to two minutes in duration that use the time effectively, showing me what you can do. I am not that concerned with the number of projects included but at the same time I don’t want to be bombarded with a series of disjointed fast cuts. Keep it simple, do it well.” And despite industry-wide agreement that short and sweet is better, Morgan says he still comes across reels that are too long: “If it’s more than two minutes I don’t watch until the end (maybe missing the crescendo of a reel). The showreel is not dissimilar to a TV ad… you have a short space of time to sell yourself. Be succinct but creative with the time.” For Morsy, though, even the two-minute window seems to be too big a number. His first rule of creating a showreel is simple: “No longer than 90 seconds”.


John’s reel consisted of two pieces. This is TRON: Recreated, “inspired by Tron: Legacy”



It’s entirely likely that the pieces you want to include in your reel are projects you’ve worked on with other people, and that’s absolutely fine as long as you make it 100 per cent clear what your input was, with whatever captions, credits and breakdowns you need to do that. Emeric Renard, who is currently working with the MPC Academy Lighting Team in Montreal, explains that the reel he brought to his Skype interview for his position “was made of sequences from my graduation short called ‘Reminiscence’, and a few other projects I’ve been working on through my training. I only selected the few I thought worthy of being shown… As I decided to make a lighting, shading and compositing reel, I paid particular attention to these aspects in my projects, and stated which software I used and my contribution to [every] single project.” “We do want to see what you have done in a shot,” Morsy explains further, “so captions highlighting [these aspects] are essential within the shot.” And of course, as your career progresses, your showreel is likely to start featuring examples of professional work, and then it becomes even more important for you to say – and be honest about – what your involvement was with each shot. “Obviously taking credit for someone else’s work is a big ‘no no’,” continues Morsy. “Please be aware that your reels may be viewed by supervisors and heads of department who worked on the same movies and shots, so honesty is the best policy. It’s always best to make it clear what your work is on each shot if created by multiple artists.”



The people who will be watching your showreel are always very busy, so Morsy is clear in that you should put “Best work first – engage from the start”. He also advises that you should “Keep it relevant. If you’re applying for an animator role don’t throw in a load of FX shots just because you have them [and] omit the work you’re not totally happy with. Three or four shots would be an average amount of shots to include, but there is no hard and fast rule for this. Often one or two expertly-crafted shots will be enough to showcase a candidate’s ability.” Morgan is quick to advise graduates to make sure their reel includes more than just “modulebased work. Include work you have created in your own time… we want to see more than just academic-related work.” Smith also suggests applicants skip work they’re not sure of. “This sounds very cynical,” she admits, “but we will always work on the assumption that the least strong piece of work on your reel is indicative of your ability rather than the strongest piece.” Envy’s Eric Pronk suggests you “end on a strong shot as well,” because essentially you’re making a film, and while the first moments set the tone, it’s the last moments that the audience goes away talking about.

YOUTUBE VS VIMEO Which video platform is the better option for uploading your all-important reel? Though there are other video hosting platforms out there, it’s essentially a slugging match between YouTube and Vimeo. Katie German, an FX artist at the MPC Academy, says: “I shared my reel through Vimeo. An effective system to monitor views and lack of advertisements influenced the decision.” When Caspian Graca Da Silva – who has now been at Envy for two years – was sending out his showreel, he uploaded it to YouTube and “also created my own website portfolio to house all the tests and look development work that I did during my course”. Smith explains that she has to “share showreels with our hiring managers, many of whom are working on Linux. So having a streamable (rather than downloadable) reel that works across platforms is hugely important.” So, either Vimeo or YouTube is fine, though the former can come across as being more professional as it has privacy settings and freedom from ads.




“The showreel that I presented to MPC was for FX,” explains German. “Created mainly in Houdini, it features a viscous FLIP fluid simulation of hot caramel being poured over a cold chocolate ball and melting”



Given that the big companies get so many applicants, the challenge is certainly to stand out from the crowd. But don’t be too wacky. There are times, explains Smith where “music choice can detract from the work or even be potentially offensive in some cases, so a simple reel that highlights the work and has an email address at the end is by far our preference.” “For entry-level artists,” says Morsy, “one of the biggest mistakes is attempting to showcase all their work without the thought of who they are showing it to. At MPC we have departmentspecific artists so when applying for roles, it helps to have a focus toward a specific area.” Kumar Abhinaw John, who is now at MPC Academy Matchmove, explains, “As I was applying for the matchmove department I made sure I included shots that showed a wide range of my matchmove skills, including tracking a camera with really shaky footage, working on a heavily distorted plate with motion blur and so on. I made sure they were not just the same type of shots or easy ones.” Chris Bending is a lead crowd TD at MPC London now, but when he was a student, he put together a showreel that demonstrated this approach: “I created a crowd sim tool for Maya so my reel was mostly showing how the tool worked.” An artistic reel might have been an obvious approach, but Bending’s showed MPC how his career might develop. And so it has.


FX artist Katie German talks us through the showreel that got her a place at the MPC Academy in Montreal

“A showreel’s goal is mostly to advertise how you think as an artist and problem solver,” says German, as well as “how much attention to detail is given.” Here, she set herself the problem of melting chocolate, and solved it

As well as showing your work, you also need to show what work you’ve done, so break that down into plates, show your wireframes or whatever you need to do. Here German “also shows each layer of effects created by themselves”

For pieces for the reel “Buddy up with friends who work on complementary tasks you don’t do,” says Renard

German’s was an appealingly short-and-to-the-point reel, running to 42 seconds. The second asset was “a pyro simulation for fire and smoke: a small transformer explosion, composited over footage”

“Usually,” German notes, “demo reels include disclaimers in case any part of the work features was not created by the artist in question. However, as I created all the parts of mine, I did not include such a [disclaimer] in the credits”

German explains that it’s very easy to find assets and work through tutorials for your reel work, but you need to go further and do more. “Not doing so will only hinder professionals from assessing your true skillset,” she adds


Renard also advises to “work on as many personal projects as possible” to create more choice for the reel


What your showreel needs to do is convince prospective employers that you are up to the challenge, which means producing something professional. Danny Bodell is a VFX MCR assistant at Envy, and when he put together the reel that got him the job his focus was something that “had a commercial feel to it”. It was a mix of 2D/3D animation, compositing and motion graphics, and he “wanted to make it clear I knew basic and advanced techniques in certain applications, that I understood good composition and the competitive standard of work needed to make it as a digital artist.” So, assuming your work itself looks good, and the credits or captions explain what you’ve done, the big questions is… to soundtrack, or not to soundtrack? For Morgan, “The best showreels always have a great soundtrack… even on a subconscious level music is extremely effective when used well.” But for Morsy, “My team sit in an open plan office so we don’t listen to the music – it’s the visuals we are concerned with. I would advise to spend your time tightening up a shot as opposed to working on finding that perfect piece of music.” So, do what feels right to you musically, and remember that professional doesn’t have to be fancy. “The production value really doesn’t matter to us,” says Smith. “A fancy name card or clever music choices won’t make any difference if the quality of the work isn’t there.”




Renard says it’s important to highlight which parts are your work if you work on projects with others



So, how can you make sure that your showreel stands out from all the others out there? The answer is not to depend solely on your showreel – the whole package has to shine. Smith notes that “a CV that demonstrates a real commitment to and passion for the industry can really support an application.” Morgan goes further, saying “I select candidates who not only have great showreels but also have experience in a client-facing environment. Working in a pub, restaurant or retail environment whilst paying the bills for uni/ higher education goes down very well in my book and is something I actively look for on a CV. It’s all about showing you are a well-rounded candidate.” He says Envy is looking for “individuals with a rare balance of technical ability and ‘soft skills’ (communication, initiative, decision-making ability and so forth).” Morsy explains that he spends a lot of time visiting universities and he looks for “engaging artists who are passionate about what they do, who are prepared to go the extra mile to perfect their work. We will give feedback on the work and look for artists that can take that advice on board and come back to us with improvements and showcase their development.” He also notes that if you’re prepared to move, that’s a big plus, adding that MPC is currently looking for artists to join the team in Montreal, and that talent@ is the email address for interested applicants.


Danny Bodell’s 60-second reel was on Vimeo as “it’s simple and it looks more professional than YouTube”

Caspian Graca Da Silva’s next showreel may show off some of the work he did for Channel 4’s Dispatches John thinks his reel was helped by “knowledge in every department for [a smooth] pipeline”


Once your showreel is complete, the next challenge is to get it onto the screens of the people that hire people. “DVDs and USB delivery of showreels is outdated,” says Morgan. “I think I’ve received one DVD so far this year. It’s all about effective communication; how easy can you make it for me to view your showreel? One click via a link in an email to a Vimeo or YouTube account is always preferable over USB/DVD.” Smith is more hardline, saying “Definitely don’t send us a hard-copy reel please!” For John, the best strategy for sharing his work was YouTube, where he uploaded his VFX and 3D generalist showreels. He also put them both on a website he’d created for himself. “The biggest mistake people make is to assume that they only need one showreel that will suit every application,” says Smith. “Someone might be applying to multiple companies at the same time, particularly when just starting. But every company is different and every company takes on slightly different styles or kinds of work… At Framestore we do a huge amount of VFX work – CG integrated into live action plates – as a result we are looking for photoreal, real-world examples on reels where possible.” So when you come round to sharing your reel, make sure you’re offering what people are looking for.

THE ULTIMATE SHOWREEL CHECKLIST Keep it short – aim for 60-90 seconds -------------------------------------------------Put your best work up front -------------------------------------------------Save your second best (or your most complicated) for last -------------------------------------------------Caption images to explain what you did -------------------------------------------------Use wireframes/cutaways/different angles to explain the work -------------------------------------------------Put in – but don’t rely on – music and fancy production values -------------------------------------------------Send it wide, but hone it accordingly -------------------------------------------------Share it on Vimeo or YouTube -------------------------------------------------Make sure your CV is as polished and shiny as your showreel -------------------------------------------------Find a way to demonstrate your ‘soft skills’


Over 103,000 storyboards and 1,300 shots were made during production of Finding Dory



Katana was crucial to the speed of rendering and realism of the aquatic environments

3D Artist talks to Pixar’s John Halstead to find out what it took to find Dory and chart a course through territory both familiar and new


hen Pixar released Finding Nemo in 2003 it found itself with an instant classic on its hands and the movie has proved to be one of the most popular of the studio’s feature films to date. Finding Dory, directed by Andrew Stanton and co-directed by Angus MacLane, has already proved hugely successful, having enjoyed a terrific opening weekend in North America. The new movie tells the story of Nemo’s sidekick, the memorychallenged Dory, as she sets out on a journey to seek a way home.

The film marks yet another instalment in Pixar’s evolution of its application of digital toolkits. 3D Artist recently spoke with Pixar about what it took to dive back into a sea of creative possibilities, revisiting characters, creating a gang of new ones and building environments that seem so very real. “I was really excited. My first duties were to sit down and anticipate some of the technical issues,” explains John Halstead, supervising technical director on the film, adding that part of his excitement was on account of coming full circle: “My first film at Pixar was Finding Nemo and, so, I was hired onto Finding Dory.”

Pixar has captured the beauty of light passing through water worlds using RIS technology



The scale of the water was a challenge. John says that “RenderMan figured out how to render it all”


An adventure movie through and through, and one that’s woven through with humour and sentiment, Finding Dory elegantly combines both high stakes and jeopardy with quieter, more lyrical interludes. For the team at Pixar a key, overriding aesthetic touchstone in shaping the storytelling was the trade-off between a sense of realism and something more heightened in the creation of the environments that Dory adventures through: the reef, the open ocean and an aquarium. Halstead sets the scene for the work that he and his team embarked on. “I’ve been on Finding Dory for about three and a half years,” he begins. I started in November 2012 and the entire production’s been going four years. My job was advocating for resources and working with our fantastic studio tools department.” Halstead also defines the key parameter that he and his team worked to, noting that “We really tried to adhere to the first film as closely as possible: any time we diverged from that we’d pull it back.” For its work in the production’s pipeline, Halstead’s team deployed RenderMan RIS, Presto, Katana and USD. The value of Katana on Finding Dory was that it offered virtually real-time feedback that gave the crew the opportunity to quickly review the rendering of any given frame during production. Further refining the work of Halstead’s crew was the integration of USD (Universal Scene Description), which provided them with a scalable system for authoring, reading and streaming time samples. RenderMan has been iterated many times since the late Eighties and its latest version now lets the studio spend less time doing the heavy lifting of creating invisible light sources and, instead, more time finessing the artistry of its work. RenderMan’s

We added three new technologies to our pipeline: two of those were built in-house John Halstead, supervising TD

RIS technology now takes care of the creation of both direct and indirect light (light reflected off a given surface). Halstead breaks down the work on positioning that the technical team were focused on for the production. “In terms of the team that I was responsible for, [it] spanned departments starting in layout, that [helped with] camera and staging, and character (for building the puppets that our animators use),” he says. “We have a crowds

department that handled the humans and the school of fish. There’s the simulation department and they handled the clothing, and there’s our effects department and lighting and, finally, rendering. There were 1,300 shots in the film.” He adds that, “Early on we made a ton of shots and probably 100 shots got cut.” Every animated movie presents technical challenges in how best to capture reality and Halstead discusses the specific, technical challenge that the aquarium settings meant for the production, “The scale and complexity of the aquarium – rendering all of the glass and water in the film – was a challenge.” Subtleties are a vital characteristic of the visual palette in Finding Dory and Halstead goes on to talk through how his team achieved an authenticity in the creation of water ripples, splashes and bubbles: “The aesthetic for the movie is a caricature of reality: it’s based in nature but it’s cleaned up a bit. You can look at the reef and you’ll see the same form and colour palette that’s familiar from the first movie, but we did add some new elements and then, when we get into the aquarium, there is a little added sophistication and intensity in the rendering.” Halstead also cites a particular aspect of the production on the film, “There are some specific challenges to the scale of the water that we’re rendering for Dory.” Finding Dory offered Halstead and his team the opportunity to work with both established and new tools in their part of the pipeline. In doing so, it let the team build yet further on all of the production work that the studio has worked on over the past three decades. Halstead offers an insight into the toolkit: “We have a number of flagship techniques in the



Developed by Pixar, USD enriches data communication between applications

pipeline and on Dory we added three new technologies to our pipeline: two of those were built in-house and the other is Universal Scene Description, and this is something that allows better interoperability between in-house and non in-house.” Halsted also notes that “The third new thing we added was Katana. Katana is our shading and lighting tool and allows for live rendering, updating and feedback in seconds rather than in minutes. In comparing Finding Dory to Inside Out, we now have a pipeline run with USD.” Digging deeper into the USD it’s worth nothing that it supports just a small number of combine operators, in terms of layering, for scene data. USD helps composed scenes remain understandable. It’s a less is more kind of philosophy. Finding Dory is notable, too, for being the first Pixar production to completely implement RIS technology, and Halstead is keen to address how it benefited the production. “Our pipeline revolved around the fact that our water was small and so… some of the techniques that we’d use on large scale water effects don’t apply as much,” he explains. “On a smaller scale, the splashy parts have a glassy, silvery quality to them and the transition between splashes and non-splashing parts of the water is very smooth. To render that we used RenderMan RIS, which provided more accurate rendering of how light behaves in the real world: there’s a ton of reflection and refraction. We started being able to treat bubbles as a more physical effect. The renderer would throw rays at it and [we’d] build up light within the splash.” For Halstead, there’s a benefit offered by the RenderMan iteration that other tools just do not provide and he describes how “New RenderMan really played a big role in the rendering of the aquarium, for compositing small water with larger water. Computers like to work with hard and fast


RenderMan really played a big role… We’re spending less time on technical heavy lifting John Halstead, supervising TD

rules… We’re spending less time on technical heavy lifting. In order for artists to work more quickly, artists can just grab small simulation domains. Compositing simulation domains as an implicit field gives our artists flexibility.” The marine life in the film showcases a really diverse array of materials, and Halstead explains the longstanding tradition at Pixar of referring to reality to create an animated version of it that might just play with that reality a little. This fidelity to the essence of real landscapes and creatures proved an interesting challenge for Hank the Octopus. Halstead explains further: “Hank was a

character that Andrew Stanton wanted in the film from the start,” he tells us. “One of the things that’s amazing about octopuses is how flexible they are. Hank was certainly the most challenging character: how do you make an octopus that’s appealing and can deliver a performance? We spent a lot of time doing research and looking to nature for inspiration. Octopuses are so complex that it’s daunting just to break down what you see.” Halstead talks a little more about Hank’s arm rig that was built for the performance, describing it as a “sophistication that we needed to achieve and there was a huge challenge in terms of how to best use the rig. The Hank shots typically took three times as long to animate as other characters. When the artists were initially blocking out a shot they’d turn off Hank’s arm and just draw it in and this got them to get a buy off [on a shot].” With Finding Dory, John Halstead and his crew had the opportunity to meet the challenge of a sequel to a phenomenal success: being both familiar and new in the right combination and, like last year’s Inside Out, this latest movie gives Pixar the chance to continue refining nuances and subtleties in its work. Pixar movies are precision-built creative endeavours and this distinctive storytelling is present in every part of the frame, from character design to animation through to the environments and the way light moves. How timely, then, that 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Pixar’s first short film, ‘Luxo Jr’. With Finding Dory, Pixar has clearly made a rich return to familiar waters whilst also managing to steer an exciting new course to someplace new. With evident satisfaction, Halstead sums up the creative journey by suggesting that, “I think a refinement [of Finding Nemo’s aesthetic] is a good way to describe it”.

FINDING DORY IN NUMBERS The key statistics behind the prod














Although Blender has its own ID Mask method you can’t use it in other image editing software (like Photoshop or GIMP), but you can make use of this amazing script by EugeneKiver. It creates proper ID maps for you ( blends/view/66370). Mrityunjay Bhardwaj




A great add-on for organising your scene is Layer Management. It not only gives you the option of customised layer names but it also lets you select items by layer. This is great if you have a very dense scene scatter across many layers. Wing Wai Sze


Most of us forget that the default value of Blender output is set to 90 per cent, which might degrade the quality of your output render. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj





Left-hand keyboard efficiency is key to working fast, especially in Blender. Brennan Letkeman



Go to File>User Preferences>Input>and check Emulate 3 Button Mouse and Numpad. Go to System and change dpi to 65, which gives you more space, and tweak the Solid OpenGL lights to make the shadows in the viewport more prominent. Then activate plugins like F2, Node Wrangler, LoopTools and Extra Objects, and download sculpt plugins such as Bevel Curve Tools Master and Blender Sculpt Tools Master. Yanal Sosak



Isolating individual components of the main scene into separate scene(s) will enable you to treat each piece as independent work. It is also a good idea to learn how to reuse assets by linking, kitbashing or using plugins such as AssetManager. Jüri Unt



The colour management tab is a quick and great tool for both colour balancing and grading. Use the built-in scopes to get a better idea of the actual colour balance of the image. Daniel Vesterbæk Jensen

Don’t be afraid to matchmove an object by hand. This is something I do all the time at work. An actor will be holding an object that we need to add VFX to, so I quickly model the object and line it up with the plate, not worrying about lenses, perspectives or anything. Sean Kennedy






Enable the Node Wrangler add-on, then on the Node Editor, press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+leftclick on any node to attach a viewer node for a quick node preview while a real-time render is enabled in the viewport. Reynante Martinez



For interior rendering, ambient occlusion is the most important setting that you absolutely need to understand correctly in order to get better ambient illumination. Joan Savalli



Make use of the many add-ons included in Blender by default. You can activate them in File>User Preferences>Addons. My favourite ones are Node Wrangler by Greg Zaal, Bartek Skorupa and Sebastian Koenig; and Pie Menus by Sean Olson, Patrick Moore and Dan Eicher. Rico Cilliers


This tool can be accessed via the Faces menu while in Edit Mode, or with Cmd/Ctrl+F to quickly go to the menu, and selecting Intersect (Boolean). It basically lets you use the Boolean modifier’s Difference mode in the edit; it can save lots of time without going through the modifier. Wing Wai Sze


Once it’s lined up, I set keys for position, scale and rotation, then go through the shot manually animating it to match as best I can. I know some of you are cringing, but you’d be surprised at how well this works. I’ve used it on everything from a supervillain’s weapon to the entire interior of a vehicle. Sean Kennedy



When working on a large project with extremely high-poly models, performance becomes an issue. One simple hack to improve performance is to disable Outline Selected in the N panel in the 3D view. Rico Cilliers



Use Sheep It to render. Sheep It is a free distributed render farm for Blender that means you can render anything for free. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj

Wing Wai Sze used Cycles’ material node system for the armour finish

McLaren MP4 by Daniel Jensen

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF BLENDER – FROM BEGINNER TO EXPERT Whether you’re just starting in Blender or are already a power user, industrial designer Brennan Letkeman outlines helpful ways of getting the most out of the software If you’re just starting in Blender, what do you think is a good way to learn more? Tutorials are great, of course, but I’ve always approached tutorials as a small stepping stone for a bigger project. I’ve always had something in my head that I wanted to achieve, and then pieced together different tutorials on how to achieve individual details and components rather than just following “Oh, today we’re going to learn about this thing you probably don’t care about” blindly. And then once you’re more experienced? You’ll pick up hotkeys, you’ll pick up methodologies as you go (and realistically, just make up your own) and they’ll become increasingly comfortable and efficient with time.

Blender usually has five ways to do basically any single task, so you’ll arrive at the ones you prefer and link up nicely with each other. What are the core parts of Blender you think an experienced artist should master? Learn lighting, texturing and rendering. If you ever watch VFX breakdown videos – the ones about how they made your favourite bigbudget Hollywood movies – you’ll notice that the models and geometry are actually really basic. Around 80 per cent of what makes a movie animation cool and realistic is lighting, materials, particles, getting depth of field and physical camera effects right. A bad model with great rendering is better than a great model with terrible rendering.




Rotate view along the y axis (relative to the current view)

In Object Mode this selects and renders the desired area only.

Fill a hole with a custom mesh.

Convert a triangulated mesh to quads.

Triangulate a mesh. Starship corridor by Daniel Brown Starship Adamant by Daniel Brown

In Edit Mode, a brush tool to select vertices, edges or faces. In Object mode a way to select one or more objects with a brush tool.

Shortcut for adding a level of subdivision surface (modifier) to a selected object.

Join the selected objects to the active object. HOLD CTRL WHILE MOVING, ROTATING AND SCALING Enables you to use the snap tool easily without having to toggle the button in the viewport.


Reynante Martinez utilised The Cycles Material Vault’s Concrete02 material on Stanford University’s Buddha model

Scandinavian interior by Joan Savalli

Hardsurface hub by Brennan Letkeman

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I have favourite tools that I ďŹ nd are indispensable. I’m a hard-surface modeller, so for UI setup, I use Snap To Grid in the 3D window, and always use MatCap shaders and screen space ambient occlusion to make geometric details pop so I can see where my details are good and where more work is needed. Daniel Brown




For quick access to Blender’s various editors, without the need to press the header icons, use the following keyboard shortcuts: ěŊ'($3Ĺ›ĉŊ$.1ĹŠ .%(!ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3śĊŊ$.1ĹŠ."#ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3Ĺ›ÄŒĹŠ$.1ĹŠ83'.-ĹŠ.-2.+# ěŊ'($3śĎŊ$.1ĹŠÄŠĹŠ(#6ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3Ĺ›Ä?ĹŠ$.1ĹŠ1/'ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3Ĺ›Ä?ĹŠ$.1ĹŠ1./#13(#2ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3śđŊ$.1ĹŠ("#.ĹŠ#04#-!#ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3śĒŊ$.1ĹŠ43+(-#1 ěŊ'($3Ĺ›ÄˆÄ‡ĹŠ$.1ĹŠÄľ ,%#ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3Ĺ›ÄˆÄˆĹŠ$.1ĹŠ#73ĹŠ"(3.1 ěŊ'($3Ĺ›ÄˆÄ‰ĹŠ$.1ĹŠ./#ĹŠ'##3 Reynante Martinez



You can learn to write your own, of course, but for most modellers you’ll ďŹ nd a huge library of things people have written to solve speciďŹ c challenges they faced. From automating rote tasks to creating cool new features, add-ons can improve basically anything. Brennan Letkeman




Sometimes Cycles just can’t clean up noise. I like to create a patch for compositing. I choose a frame where there is noise and let it render with unlimited samples. Then I save as an EXR. On an empty layer, create a small plane, subdivide and shrinkwrap it to the object so it covers where the render noise is happening. Project the clean frame rendered, make the shader an emission set to 1.0 and render with an alpha channel. Sean Kennedy


This could be a huge timesaver for you as you can select regions with a similar nature (like material, perimeter, normal and so on) rather than selecting each of them individually. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj




Be more exible, work faster and smarter by utilising modiďŹ ers. Explore each of the available modiďŹ ers to better understand how they can beneďŹ t you in your daily workow. JĂźri Unt


You can easily set Blender’s autosave intervals and save versions (BLEND1, BLEND2 and so on) by going to File>User Preferences and clicking on the File tab. I have my own autosave interval permanently set to two minutes, and my save versions set to three. Rico Cilliers



Complex meshes almost always need some cleaning at the end. Everyone should know about Blender’s clean-up tools. These can be found in Edit Mode at the bottom of the 3D View: Mesh>Clean up. Daniel Brown


Sculpting characters regularly, I like to spend more time on sculpting and less time on setting the scene up, and creating light and materials. For a quick lighting setup, I open up a new Blender scene and I create the lighting on three layers: a layer for the main lights, a layer for the key lights and a layer for the rim lights. Yanal Sosak


I use a default sculpt for testing the lights. The size of the sculpt is important – you will have to use that size for the rest of your sculpts in order to tweak the lights less. Yanal Sosak



When working with nodes use Node Wrangler to optimise your workow. A hotkey list can be found in Add-ons in User Preferences. Daniel VesterbÌk Jensen



Sometimes you may want to use some regions of your mesh more often and you don’t want to select them every time, so you can use vertex group to save selected regions. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj



Shift+Space with your cursor in any given area will fullscreen it (and Shift+Space will enable you to go back). It is super useful if you need a lot of working space in either the 3D view for modelling or the node area for setting up nodes. I like keeping things as clean as possible, so I use this reexively. This feature is also very handy for viewing renders. Brennan Letkeman




INSTANT FULLSCREEN PANEL An easy way to simplify your screens is to use Cmd/Ctrl+Up. Move your mouse arrow to the desired panel and pressing the hotkey will instantly let you go fullscreen on that panel. Use it on the 3D viewport and it will get rid of all other panels/UI and let you focus on only modelling. Use Ctrl+Down to reverse. Wing Wai Sze



You can quickly generate variations in your materials and make your scene a bit more natural. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj



When saving your BLEND file, there is a checkbox on the left screen that enables you to compress your blend file. This can be effective on larger files, and I’ve been able to reduce file sizes by as much as 40 per cent using this method. Rico Cilliers





If you need to add motion blur to a 2D element, you can now use the Track Position node for this. In the Movie Clip Editor, track the area or object you’ll need to add motion blur to. In the Compositor, bring in a Track Position node and use the Speed output to feed into a Vector Blur node that is connected to your animated image. Sean Kennedy

Don’t forget to document your projects, especially if you’re working as part of a team. In the compositor, it’s very easy. In a new UI window, open a text panel. Type your note. Then, in the compositor, create a Frame (Shift+A>Layout>Frame), and in the Properties panel, you’ll see the little text dropdown. Choose the text you created for an instant note node! Sean Kennedy





Some MatCaps might not show the shadows of your model well enough, which will result in poor sculpting. I prefer using the clay (orange-brown) MatCap as it looks like the default MatCap of ZBrush. It might not be the most attractive but it works very well for sculpts. Yanal Sosak

Another way to leave notes is to go online and grab the Generic Note Node add-on. This add-on is even better, letting you type the note directly in the node. However, everyone you share the project with will need to have the add-on installed to read those notes. Sean Kennedy







You can use Cmd/Ctrl+mouse wheel scroll on sliders and colour boxes to change their values and amounts. Reynante Martinez


Blender has a very flexible UI system of window areas. I never use the outliner that comes default in the top right, so I just join that into a full-height menu. Then I have a node area and a 3D view for the camera under it, and to the left is my main 3D area. Brennan Letkeman



I use the 2.76 version by Lukas Stockner who implemented the White Value setting in colour management. It’s an incredible setting for overburned areas and helps the ambient occlusion to do its job and create a bright clean look. Joan Savalli



Use an 'empty’ image to create an inspiration box and use the Z key to see the overlapped images. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj


My go-to plan when I set up lighting for the scene is to ask myself what kinds of emotion I want to express. The final rendering and post processes are ways to bring out emotions. Wing Wai Sze


I use modifier stacks, mostly Solidify, Bevel and Mirror. They’re non-destructive (the hundreds of undo layers is no longer necessary) and automate the work, speeding up the process. Daniel Brown



The key to creating advanced, heavy modifier-based stacks is the ability to turn them all on/off with a single hotkey. Instead of destructive collapsing of the stack, you can toggle modifiers off while working on the base mesh. Jüri Unt



To present your sculpts to other artists, it is important for the render to be both attractive and show your sculpts well. Create a custom material (without any textures) and make it so you can easily customise it to fit any character. Yanal Sosak

REALISTIC SHAPES FOR CLOTHING Sebastian Zapata reveals how to add thickness and sewing lines to make realistic digital clothing using modifiers


Add sewing edges In Edit Mode

select the edges you want to have the sewing cavity. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+E with the cursor inside the viewport, then Mark Sharp. You should now see the edges highlighted with a different colour. Repeat the process if you need to include more edges.


Split edges Go to Properties Panel>Modifiers and click Add Modifier then Edge Split. You will now have an Edge Split modifier on top of the Multires or Subdivision Surface modifier. Choose only Sharp Edges and disable Edge Angle in case it has been enabled.


Add depth to seams Now, add a

Solidify modifier. Make sure that you use real-world measurements in order to make the work easier.

04 Yokai, a character by Yanal Sosak

Tweak shapes The result should be something like this. You can adjust the thickness, too, and if the sewing shape is too wide you can add extra loops near the sewing edges or increase the subdivision level. 43




If you want to move only on one particular view (without any rotation) then you can use the Shift+mouse wheel to move up or down as well as the Cmd/Ctrl+mouse wheel to move left or right. Sometimes it might be easier for you to do modelling work if you don’t have to deal with an extra axis. Wing Wai Sze



Ambient occlusion is a must when I sculpt, it helps show the creases going on in your sculpt. Activate it on your default scene. After you finish setting up your scene, lights, materials and so on you can duplicate it whenever you want to start a new sculpt. Yanal Sosak



When making clothing in Blender, it is important that your model has a clean topology with clear loops and square polygons before you add in any creases or other details, otherwise you will end up having to retopologise the mesh. Sebastian Zapata



If you use GPU rendering in Cycles for real-time view it adds a bit of lag to your UI since the GPU is drawing both at the same time. I keep it in CPU while I’m working for maximum speed and switch to GPU for a faster final render. Brennan Letkeman



If you want shorter render times adjust the Light Paths settings. Sometimes you will not need caustics or a large amount of bounces. Daniel Vesterbæk Jensen



You can save any arrangements and make them automatically start up as default by hitting Save Startup File under File. Brennan Letkeman



Try baking normals and make them tileable. This process can save you a ton of time and processing power as you are not increasing the polycount but you are still achieving the desired result. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj



You can make use of the render border in not only the camera view but also in the 3D viewport. Utilise Cmd/Ctrl+B and then adjust the size of the border; whenever you go to the live render preview it will then only render that particular part for you. Wing Wai Sze


Portrait by Rico Cilliers, sculpted in ZBrush and textured, shaded, lit and rendered in Blender


LEARN PYTHON Python is the universal language of most CG applications, making it advantageous to know. There is no better place to start than Blender as it is woven into its DNA. It is object oriented, well documented and has a wealth of online resources. This is probably the best thing you can do for your career. Jüri Unt



When sculpting fingers, legs or arms, I like to start by using a separate mesh. When I am done I attach the mesh using a Boolean to the other parts. This avoids the headache you get from sculpting two fingers that are close to each other on the same mesh. Yanal Sosak



Hair strands can be very slow to render in Cycles. One trick to get up to eight times in speed improvements is to not use transparency in your hair materials. While transparency is required for ultrarealism, disabling it is often barely noticeable to the viewer. Rico Cilliers



I like to disable transparency for all my test renders, and then only enable it for my final HD render. This simple trick has saved me so much time! Rico Cilliers



Enable the Amaranth Toolset add-on for productivity boosts (for example quick camera controls, render options and more). Reynante Martinez



Use Dark Blender to quickly generate LOD meshes for games. Dark Blender is a game-asset creation-friendly version of Blender packed with amazing features. Mrityunjay Bhardwaj

There’s a whole load of information out there on this, but there are lots of great ways to speed up your renders and get them looking clean without just cranking up the samples and waiting. Save yourself time (and impatience) by learning some key optimisation processes. Brennan Letkeman






Organisation is key. Also use procedural textures to create randomness in your material. Yanal Sosak



Some add-ons that are useful include BoolTool, LoopTools and Hard Ops. They generally make things easier for hard-surface modelling. Daniel Brown



Bind cameras to timeline markers to change the active camera in real-time. Add the cameras and position them accordingly in the 3D scene. Select the camera that you wish to be active on in that specific frame. Proceed to the timeline and add a marker (M) where you want the cameras to change. While your mouse cursor is on the Timeline, you can press Cmd/Ctrl+B to bind the camera. Reynante Martinez


Making daily visual snapshots will not only help with morale but will result in faster execution and higher quality. You will have the freedom to explore and deviate from initial design as well as the ability to compare and revert parts that have been regressed. Jüri Unt



Blender definitely has some problems defining a canvas size in the compositor. You can trick it into behaving as if it has a defined work size by creating a blank image that is the size you want, then simply layering all your other footage and effects on top of this. As long as it remains at the bottom of your node tree, it will define the canvas size for you. Many times I’ll just use the plate footage as that bottom image. Sean Kennedy



When you scroll through the frames, you’ll notice that the active camera switches from one camera to another depending on the marker that it is bound on. Select the active camera and press the 0 key on the numpad to proceed to camera view mode. Press G and then use the middle-mouse button to move the camera in and out along its viewing axis. Reynante Martinez



The specialised keyboard shortcuts I find myself using the most are (in Edit Mode) Cmd/Ctrl+R to add Edge Loop, W for the Specials Menu, Cmd/ Cmd/Ctrl+E for Edge Menu, Cmd/Ctrl+B to add Bevel and Shift+Opt/Alt for Edge Loop Select. Daniel Brown


Expert advice from industry professionals, taking you from concept to completion

All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

Photoreal modelling & materials in Blender Learn how to model quickly, develop materials and then light and render with Cycles


his fighter jet was completed entirely in Blender and in this tutorial we will keep the detail level quite low to keep the total project time down. This jet might be good enough for a simple flyover animation or a flight-sim model. However, if you would rather have a higher poly model that is fit for another purpose then you can go ahead and create that instead. We will be focused mostly on modelling since that’s the biggest and most time-consuming part of this tutorial. We will also be creating materials and lighting in the Cycles render engine to achieve a cool final result.





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Find some references For a project like this we will


need some reference pictures; we got our imagery from a fantastic photographer called Jörgen Nilsson ( However pictures of this beautiful plane are pretty easy to find, so it should not be a problem to get some of your own. We will also need a blueprint to help out with the modelling. Now we will display the blueprint in the viewport. The aircraft’s measurements are 16.4 metres long, 10.6 metres wide and six metres tall so try to match those measurements on your background image.


Straight into modelling First we start by outlining the body of the aircraft, as we’ve found that this gives a good impression as to how modelling each object can be approached. It’s almost like a painter doing an initial sketch and expanding on that, gradually giving it more and more detail. Then it’s just a matter of finding contours and connecting the edges, while at the same time looking at different reference pictures to get the shapes right. You can outline edges at the start for a hint as to which technique you can use to model it.


Subdivide it When the main body is starting to take shape we add a subdivide modifier to smooth things out. Set it to two subdivisions to get a smooth surface. Since edges get cut in half by the subsurface modifier you need to take that into consideration when modelling, adding edge loops close to sharp edges or using the Crease tool to sharpen them up. UVs can be a bit messy with edges that are too sharp when using subdivisions, so be careful. 01

Extruding Since airplanes are tube shaped you can extrude sections one at a time quite easily and get a smooth edge flow. Start from the front and work your way back, changing width to accommodate the model. This method overrides the need to do the initial outlining step but you can still do it to get an understanding of the final shape. Modelling each vertex and filling in polygons along the way is also a good way to get detail right from the start and to have more control of your wireframe.





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Try to keep the wireframe fairly clean on both the canary wings and the main wings to make it a little easier to UV unwrap later


Extrude the wings A simple part of the model,


Add the landing gear Check out some reference


Add details It is now time to add some details like

choose top view and extrude from the body and out following the blueprint for the wings. Try to keep the wireframe fairly clean on both the canary wings and the main wings to make it a little easier to UV unwrap later. After you have a suitable 2D shape extrude it downwards to give it a thickness of a few centimetres. Make sure you get the right angle from the side view. The aileron, flaps and elevators can simply be a copy of the wings’ backside and extruded out to the right length.


pictures of the landing gears and see how they look. We decided on using a simple variant of the gear, and this can of course be worked to a much more detailed realistic presentation of the real thing but we are keeping it quite simple as of right now. We have a subdivision modifier on all of the objects on the models but these details could easily do without so that’s up to you. Using the autosmooth feature does the job just as well. You might not want to land on these gears though, these are just for show. If you decide to land on these we cannot take responsibility for any injuries!

the pitot head (the pointy thing in the front and on the tail fin). Add the cockpit venting ducts and the electronic venting ducts. The placement of the antennas and lights are different on different models of the plane; if you want to really impress the plane experts then be careful what model number your reference aircraft are. The real experts won’t accept any misrepresentations, so pay attention to what you’re doing!





Test render At this stage you can do a test render to


see if/where you messed up so you can fix it before you move into the UV unwrapping. It is also a good self esteem boost to see that model take shape in front of you. Maybe the placement of the wings or maybe the connections between the wings and the body are placed wrong? The top part definitely looks a bit too fat and the placement of the landing gear seems to be off so you may be asking yourself ‘Who created this? Really?’ That is why we need test renders!


Mark seams for UV unwrapping It is time to mark seams so the UVs can be unwrapped nicely. You can do this the easy way and just use the Smart UV unwrap or you can do it the hard way and mark up the seams. We do it the hard way. Think of it like a paper model that needs to be flattened, you use a scissor to cut the paper model into pieces so that you can lay it flat on a surface and then paint on it. You either try to keep a big UV that sticks together or you cut it into smaller pieces that can easily be managed. This is an art that may be difficult to master.


UV unwrapping An easy way to line up the UVs is

to use a colour grid texture and place that on the model, then use the UV editor to align the UVs. Make sure no part of the texture is stretched, or if it is redo the seams and check again to get an even UV layout. Getting the UVs straight really helps when creating the straight lines for the plates.


Weapons You can’t forget the weapons! Well maybe if your aircraft is to be used in air shows or for training or something like that, but we like the look of the rockets under the wings and the drop tank under the body so we put them in. They are really simple models – just some tubes with wings.


Mask the paint job We’ve chosen a livery called Blå Petter instead of the usual military camo or the metallic from the reference pictures. Do this by creating a black image and then use a sharp brush to paint white on the places that need masking. This will be used to separate the blue paint with the yellow paint. Then paint directly in the 3D viewport so that it is not super precise placements. If your UVs are up to it you can paint directly on the map, but we think it’s just easier to paint where you think it should be. 07






Paint rivets and plates It’s time to do the bump map

for the rivets and plates. Start off by creating a fairly large grey image (50/50 black and white) in an image editor and use the line brush in texture paint to start painting in lines for the plates. Paint it black for the lines and white for the rivets. We find it easiest to just paint directly in the 3D view to get all the lines the same size and to not be stretched. You can use the image editor to draw the lines too, but it’s a bit harder to get it right. Just eyeballing it from the reference pictures should do the job at placing the plates. Then change spacing on the line brush to get dots instead, and paint them white around the black lines as rivets holding them in place.

12 13

Create materials The materials we will use are super easy to make as there aren’t any advanced node systems to worry about. Start by mixing a dark blue coloured glossy node in the node editor with a slightly lighter blue glossy node. Mix it again with a slightly lighter blue colour. Use a layer weight to mix the colour you have with a white coloured glossy node to get the right shine. Do the same thing again but with yellow glossy nodes this time. Create a mix node between the two and use the mask created as the mix factor, to separate the blue from the yellow. Create a metal material and apply that to the details like landing gear and air intakes and we are all set.


Bump it up Since our bump map is of a grey

background with black lines and white dots, it’s really just a matter of connecting it to a displacement and making sure it’s facing the right way. The grey area will be a flat surface, the black area will be slightly lowered and the white areas slightly raised. Use a colour ramp to adjust the highs and lows. Also use a colour ramp to isolate the white rivets and mask in a simple dark diffuse node to make the rivets clearer.

Bumping There are many ways to create bumps like this, and you can make use of Photoshop to create normal maps or use a premade stencil to stamp out the plates in a texture painting program. If you are going to be using a program to paint the model then you might as well do the bumping there too.




Light it up To light up a vehicle in a photo studio, photographers often use lights placed

around the object. Do a quick search to see how they do it with their lights and we will try to mimic that here. By using planes spread out with an emission material applied to them, we can get a soft light that we can easily move around and place where they hit the vehicle from the best spots. Preview the scene in rendered view while you move the lights around or add more to place the reflections where you want them. 14

Adam Nordgren Adam works freelance and dwells in the cellar of a 19th Century bookstore during the day. He is a 3D generalist, a hobby photographer and an amateur chocolate taster. Adam works mostly with arch vis where environments are his core strength. He also likes to work with vehicle modelling.

Rävlyan, 2016 Blender Concept house inspired by Ex Machina, Adam wanted an over-the-top architecture piece in his portfolio and fell in love with an in-ground house in Alaska in real life.


Saab 93F 1960, 2015 Blender It’s just another Saab but it’s a bit different this time as it was made as a commuting vehicle instead of a Cold War vehicle – a beautiful car none the less.


Postprocess the image Some slight colour correction and a bit of adjustment in contrasts might be needed. Instead of a complete black background you can break it off with a smokey or dusty overlay to bring a bit of life into it. Since most of this image is in the details of the model, not much is needed for the environment.


Ljusdal’s Watertower, 2015 Blender A true landmark of Adam’s hometown, he made the model to originally be 3D printed but decided to give it some colour instead. The image was a hit on the town’s Facebook page.

All tutorial files can be downloaded from:


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JONATHAN LAMPEL Tomorrow’s Enforcer, 2016 Software Blender, Substance Painter, Photoshop

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Model and pose a dynamic character Render a future soldier character for a sci-fi action shot created to explore hard-surface character modelling


his tutorial will provide an overview of the process of creating an armoured sci-fi character and rendering him out in an action pose. It is intended to show how to approach such a project, and how to get past the major obstacles that are typically encountered while doing so. There are shortcuts and tips mentioned along the way to help speed up your workflow and to reduce the time you spend on what could otherwise be very tedious tasks. We will be using Blender as the main 3D package, along with Substance Painter for texturing and Photoshop for extra colour correction at the end.

possible and allows for a wide range of motion. When sketching out rough concepts or storyboarding, try to keep things loose and fast rather than worry about them being perfect. After all, nobody else needs to see these, and you can always go back and clean them up later if you need to pitch an idea to a team. For this specific project, we are also taking inspiration from a piece that was done by Joe Chico, a concept artist at CG Cookie.


Ziglar quote “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time” often enough, but have you noticed how much it applies to art? If you do not have the skill of picturing images with absolute clarity in your head, your artwork will likely turn out a little messy if a little planning doesn’t happen first. Try to have a specific goal in mind before even opening a 3D program. In this case, that meant sketching out the armour design for a sci-fi soldier. The goal is for him to look both lean and strong, so use sharp angles to define the major anatomical features and smooth curves for the details. See if you can lay out the armour to reflect the human anatomy, so that it looks as natural as

Sculpt it out The next step is to see how this idea translates into 3D. Start out with a simple stick figure with skin and subsurf modifiers in Blender. Then, apply the modifiers and go into sculpt mode to flesh out a basic human form. From there, we’ll use the Clay Strips brush with dynamic topology to get the basic shape of the armour. Once there is enough volume to work with, use the Polish and Crease brushes to define the flat surfaces and sharp lines of the armour. Always start big and work down to the details. If the overall shape looks off, adding detail is only going to solidify the problem and make it much harder to correct later. Just like with sketching, the first sculpting pass is loose with some gesture. One nice trick is to use the H key to hide parts of the mesh that you don’t want to work on at the moment.




Define the idea You have probably heard the Zig

Use sharp angles to define the major anatomical features and smooth curves for the details. See if you can lay out the armour to reflect the human anatomy, so that it looks as natural as possible





Retopologise the sculpt Just like it’s best to start


with large forms when sketching and sculpting, the same principle applies to retopology. Start with the large armoured pieces first and work your way down to the smaller pieces. In Blender, the fastest way to retopologise is to turn on surface snapping and Cmd/Ctrl+click to extrude new vertices or edges. Turning on Hidden Wire in the viewport shading options lets you see the surface underneath very clearly if you need the extra guidance. The add-ons F2 and RetopoFlow are fantastic for making the process of retopology easier, but for the most part it works just fine to stick to the basics for hard-surface objects like this. When modelling, try to define the correct edge loops first around the major features and then fill the spaces in between after. That way you have a clear flow going before having to worry about the less important geometry that connects the edge loops.


Rig the body Blender’s Rigify add-on works well for rigging all kinds of humanoid characters. If you use it as a starting point for the soldier, he is able to pose decently right away. You should also do a lot of tweaking, however, because his armour should be stiff and each piece should only move with one or two bones and not stretch like rubber. A quick way to do this without having to meticulously weightpaint each part is to select Linked with Cmd/Ctrl+L and limit by material, then assign the vertices to the corresponding bone’s vertex group.



Unwrap the mesh Since we already had the major edge loops defined in the retopology process, unwrapping this model is a cinch. Simply create seams along the natural edges of where the armour meets the suit underneath. The most tedious part is selecting all the right vertices, but that can be done quickly by first selecting one vertex or edge at one end, and then Cmd/Ctrl+selecting another at the other end. Blender calculates the shortest path between the two points and adds that to the current selection.


Texture with Substance For this project, we want to keep the texturing of this futuristic soldier simple, but we also want to add some scratches and grunge for an overall gritty look. For that, Substance Painter is the perfect tool. For the armour, you can use the Plastic Dirty Scratched smart material as a base, Tank Painted for some rough texture, and Machinery for the dirt and a little bit of gloss. The suit underneath is a hexagon pattern, with the same Machinery smart material on top for dirt on those areas as well. Baking the normal, AO, curvature, position and thickness maps allows the smart materials to place the weathered edges and grunge in just the right spots along the model. You only have to tweak the values to better match the scale and look of the soldier. 03






Shade with Cycles Back in Blender, import the


Set the scene With the character all ready to go, all

textures by dragging and dropping them right into the node editor. Our shader consists of a very basic PBR setup that approximates Substance’s metal/roughness workflow. If tweaking, the image texture’s values gives a better result in Cycles. You can use a colour ramp to adjust the texture along with a gradient.


Export a model To get your model from Blender and into Substance, first turn off any subdivision surface or deformation modifiers so that you can paint on the very base of the model. Then, with the character object selected, go to File>Export and choose OBJ. On the bottom left of the file browser you’ll find a few options for exporting. Check Selection Only so that you don’t export the entire scene, and check Apply Modifiers if you are using a mirror modifier and would like to see both halves while you are painting.

that is left is to put him in context. We decided to go with a city skyline, so let’s build an extremely simple rooftop area for him to be jumping over. Originally it is just the one box, but adding a second level further down and angled to the side really helps to tie the scene together. Having a very distinct foreground and a very distinct background, without anything in the middle to bridge the two, almost always looks fake. The more you layer, the more natural it looks. We’ll also add some wires as a compositional element to add more visual motion, since we want to keep the camera level in this shot in order to make the image look solidly grounded. Take your time placing the camera. Nothing ruins a cool shot like a hasty composition! In this case, let’s bring the camera in close to cut the bottom of the feet off, so the soldier won’t look awkwardly boxed in by the frame. Be careful to put enough negative space in front of the soldier for him to look towards. Just these two decisions alone really help make it appear like he is moving quickly from one side of the frame and into the other.


Lighting and effects Lighting sets the tone for the entire piece, and it can also help you to turn a flat scene into a dynamic one. Sometimes good lighting requires lots of lights, but for this scene a single HDR is sufficient. Let’s make use of a Creative Commons image of a city as a background and choose an HDR that has similar lighting. The Pro Lighting: Skies add-on makes the process of setting up the HDR sky take less than a minute. To get lighting that shows the true form and shape of the character, try to make sure that every major form has either a gradient of light or a shadow playing across it. The single HDR is rotated in such a way that the Sun acts as the key and rim lights, and the sky itself is the fill light. You can also add a slight depth of field to the camera at this stage, in order to direct the focus to the helmet and to add a bit of realism. 57


10 Jonathan Lampel Jonathan won an Autodesk CG Student Award in 2014. He loves working at CG Cookie and is working toward a degree in Digital Gaming and Animation.

Put it all together When placing a CG image on top of a photo background, it’s important to separate the compositing into two phases: before combining and after. Everything done before layering the foreground onto the background is only to get the two to match with colour correction. Adjusting the city’s highlights, midtones and shadows to match those of the character with a colour balance node does the trick for this scene. Everything after combining the two is about artistic stylisation. 10

Waking the Dragon King, 2016 Blender, Substance, Photoshop This image is the result of a 3D environments class exercise. Jonathan made a sketch of the scene a couple years prior, and was really excited to finally be able to make it come to life.


Work on it in Photoshop Adding very subtle amounts of additional motion blur, colour

grading, vignetting, lens distortion and/or glare after the two are already combined helps to further tie the two together. Once we are finished compositing in Blender, we can use Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter (ie Lightroom inside of Photoshop) for a colour correction final polish. The same functions are technically available inside of Blender, but Camera Raw is so fast and easy to use that the extra step can actually save a lot of time tweaking. If you save your render as a smart object in Photoshop before using the filter, you can edit the settings later or replace the image with an updated render at any time. 11

The Reading Room, 2016 Blender, Photoshop A modern interior designed for a college project on home environments. Jonathan loves reading, tea and minimalism, so he made a spot he would love to relax in.

Speed up Cycles rendering Freedom, 2015 Blender, Photoshop A steampunk marionette automation cutting his strings – but is it real freedom in the long run? This piece was made to explore philosophical storytelling through composition.


Cycles assumes that you want the most accurate render, so it sets the number of Light Path bounces to be pretty high by default. For an outside scene like this we really don’t need many; you can set a minimum of one and a maximum of three without seeing too much difference. This will help reduce the amount of noise in the render. Turning off reflective and refractive caustics is also helpful since they would not be noticeable anyway. Lastly, you can check Persistent Images in the performance panel so that Cycles won’t have to reload your textures and HDR every time you render.

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Techniques Our experts


The best artists from around the world reveal specific CG techniques

3ds Max Paul Hatton Paul leads a team of 3D visualisers at a company based in England, specialising in visualisations

Fusion Santiago Menghini A director and VFX artist, Santiago is also cofounder of Nemesis Films and founder of The Film Effect

iClone Mike Centkowski Mike is the program manager at Digital Media Arts College in Florida. He has been teaching for ten years

Houdini Jarrod Hasenjager Jarrod is currently working as a modeller and texture artist, and he enjoys other parts of the pipeline too

Master 3ds Max 2017’s new modelling tools G




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eneral opinion of Autodesk’s 3ds Max 2017 seems to be that there isn’t a specific feature that is groundbreaking but that the collection of new features will make artists’ life easier. Most people are up for an easy life, especially at work, so this new feature list is not necessarily a bad one. One of the primary areas that Autodesk has focused on making improvements in is modelling. It has made a series of tweaks to the object tool such as Point to Point Selection, highlight preview before selection, local align transform and enabling the pinning of the working pivot. It is these features that we will look at in more detail in this tutorial. By doing this you will hopefully gain the necessary skills required to further streamline your modelling work���ow. We will also take a brief look at the improved ‘Fast form hard surfaces’, which have seen a vast improvement to the Boolean tools. By using this new modifier you can quickly and easily stack up operands to make some really complex models. Pro Boolean used to be the weapon of choice for Boolean options, but we can quickly see that becoming outdated as the new Boolean tool becomes commonplace.

Autodesk has also made improvements to other 3ds Max tools such as the Bevel Profile Modifier and the TextPlus tool. We will be briefly mentioning these too. If you’re lacking enthusiasm for this version of 3ds Max then many people would not blame you. However, users have been crying out for years for Autodesk to fix old features and historical problems and we feel that’s exactly what it has done with the 2017 iteration of the software.


Toggle sub-object modes In previous versions of

3ds Max, and indeed still in this version, you can swap between sub-object modes using the number keys 1 to 5. While this process can be regularly made use of during modelling, it can be easy to forget which number was paired with which sub-object mode! Autodesk and 3ds Max has now made it possible to move between the sub-object modes using a single shortcut key. This is not something that is on by default so to do this, you will need to go to Customize User Interface, set the group to Editable Poly and the category to All Commands. Then simply scroll down to Subobject Pick and assign your favourite shortcut to it.

Each selection has its own local alignment, which means the transformation… is performed on each selection individually


The TextPlus tool This tool began to be introduced as an extension to version 2016 but it is now a fully-fledged feature. The text tool was always a bit archaic in 3ds Max and there wasn’t a huge requirement for it, so that’s just the way that it stayed. However, for various reasons the 3ds Max team have decided to put it on steroids and increase the capabilities of the humble text tool. The previous text tool has been completely phased out but we don’t think anyone will be missing it!


Point to Point Selection This new feature is going to be helpful and will really speed up the process of selection parts of your geometry. It works in polygon, edge and vertex modes and is activated by holding down the Shift key on the keyboard when you’re making your selection. This feature will work for both adjacent and non-adjacent selections, which is ideal. The next step will help you make informed selections especially when you’re making non-adjacent selections. A really good extension of this feature would be to be able to copy a selection and apply that to another part of the model. This would enable users to get identical selections around a model.



Highlighted preview before selection During software releases, some features can feel a bit gimmicky and not really warrant their development time, but this preview feature is really helpful. It comes into its own in conjunction with the aforementioned Point to Point Selection tool. When you’re making selections between two polygons, edges or vertices that are potentially quite far away it’s helpful to know that the selection that is made when you click is going to be the correct one. This preview feature, which is turned on by default, gives you exactly the sort of feedback that you need.


Local Aligned individual selection Thank you Autodesk! Now that selections have been enhanced in version 2017, it’s great to know that the process of transforming multiple selections has also been improved. This used to be a real pain. In the past if you had multiple selections, each with different axis alignments, it would be very difficult if not impossible to make transformations on all those selections at the same time in a predictable manner. With the Local Aligned tool each selection has its own local alignment, which means the transformation, whether that be move, rotate or scale, is performed on each selection individually rather than grouping them all into one. 01





Use Local Aligned Select your chosen object and



go into sub-object polygon mode. Make your polygon selections ensuring that you have multiple selection groups where each group has a different axis alignment. Then, with Alt+right-click, the coordinate system options will appear. Choose Local Aligned and select your transform tool. This could be the move, rotate or scale tool. Make your transformation and notice how the transform is applied to each selection independently. This is a major timesaver as previously you would have to make each transform on each selection.


Edit working pivot One of the other transform annoyances regarding Max was with regards to the working pivot. In previous versions the working pivot would reset if you selected a new object. This meant that you couldn’t use the same pivot to transform multiple objects without painstakingly setting them up first. It is still possible obviously to set up specific local pivots for each object, but this isn’t always what you want when editing objects. Now you are able to edit the working pivot, pin it and then when you select a new object the pivot remains in the same place. Perfect!



Work with the same pivot With an object selected you’re supposed to be able to right-click and access the ‘Edit working pivot’ through the quad menu but we can’t seem to get this to work. However, you can still go to the hierarchy tab and select ‘Edit Working Pivot’. Move your pivot to your chosen destination and make sure the ‘Pin Working Pivot’ checkbox is selected. You will see that the pivot stays in exactly the same place no matter how many objects you select.


Stack Booleans Booleans have had a complete overhaul and it’s certainly been a long time coming! The ProBoolean tool made Boolean operations a lot more predictable and reliable but they were still hard to work with. Making adjustments after performing operations was a bit limited. Introducing the new Boolean tool, which can be accessed in the same Compound Objects section of the interface. You can stack Boolean operations up and even make selections from the Scene Explorer too.


Explore Booleans A further enhancement to

Booleans is the Boolean Explorer and this feature gives you a separate dialog box for setting up your Boolean operations. The primary benefit of this is that you can make batch operations. So if you want to turn up the operands to Intersect instead of Union then you can do that quickly and easily. You can also easily nest Boolean operations for more advanced purposes. All operations are double precision for incredible accuracy.

Bevel Profile Modifier The Bevel Profile Modifier enables you to create intricately customisable bevel details. This includes a Bevel Profile Editor, which contains the same editing tools found in the TextPlus tool. To use it simply create a spline and add the Bevel Profile Modifier, scroll down and hit Bevel Profile Editor. You might want to use one of the custom options to get started. Once you’re in the editor you can add and adjust points to create custom shapes, which will then be applied to your spline.






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he goal of this tutorial is to create a realistic 3D blood pool effect quickly and easily all within the same program, Blackmagic Fusion, which can be downloaded for free from +!*,%(!"#2(%-ē!.,. Creating realistic blood is a very common visual effects request, adding believability to any fight sequence, and the work on short film ‘Temple’ – which has been awarded Vimeo Short of the Week – proved no different. One of the fight sequences in the film involved a character dying on the ground, a pool of blood slowly growing underneath him. Creating this blood pool on set with practical effects was out of the question due to the budget. The solution emerged after testing Fusion. The program generated fast 3D liquid effects with realistic displacement and reflection maps so that only simple 2D texture elements needed to be improved. That meant it was easy to model a customised design without other applications. This blood pool tutorial is simple to create and one that does not require a high degree of expertise. On top of this being a unique visual effect, the aim for this tutorial is also to give you a new asset that’s customisable for any production.


Create a 2D shape for your blood The first thing you have to do is define the actual shape of the blood pool. Using Fusion, select Add Tool>Mask>Polygon to create a quick 2D shape for the pool. Then add a Background node from Creator>Background and change Depth to ‘16bit float’ in the Image tab for smoother falloffs.


Animate your shape To give the impression that

this blood pool is expanding, add a Matte Control node from Add Tool>Matte, lower the Matte Contract/Expand all the way down to -128.0, give Matte Gamma a value of 0 and select the Post multiply image tickbox. Then animate the Matte Blur value to create an expanding effect while making sure that you maintain nice, smooth edges for a more liquid feel. The great thing about this is that you can always go back and change the shape later on in the project.


Make your 2D blood realistic Now that the masked shape is set and animated, make the blood look as fluid and realistic as possible. To do that add a Background node to the tree from the Creator menu and then



Moving camera Use a still image with a fixed camera for this particular tutorial, but you can also create this blood for a shot where a moving camera is involved. All you need to do is to track the camera movement using Fusion’s Tracker or alternative tools such as Mocha, then import the track into your Fusion scene and apply it to your 3D camera there.



push both the Red and Alpha values up to 1 to change the blood’s colour to red. To create hard edge highlights, you then add several Displace nodes from Add Tool>Warp>Displace. Use a Creator>FastNoise node with ‘16bit float’ selected under the Image tab, Alpha set to 1.0 under the Colour tab, the Discontinuous box selected, the Lock X/Y box unselected and Contrast at 5.0 for a noise map. Then also add a Create Bump Map node to the tree to serve as a bump map.



Create the material Now we need to create the

material for the blood. This initially involves taking the Alpha of the blood design, and darkening it with a Color>Brightness/Contrast node so that it will better match the darker colour in the camera footage used as a reference. You’ll then need to add a Phong Shader for the 3D blood from 3D>Material>Phong.


Make a bump map Create a bump map from the Alpha that had the same features as the bump map developed in Step 2, and apply this bump map to a reflection map with the 3D>Material>Reflect node. The reflection map was made with the help of a 360-degree panoramic image. Essentially, you transform the image with a Transform node to adjust the lighting, grade it with a colour correction node that had a raised Master – RGB – Gain value to boost highlights, and blur before adding it to a 3D spherical map using 3D>Texture>SphereMap and then applying it to the reflections. It is all really straightforward, but as you can see there is no displacement yet so the shape is still pretty flat. 65



Create a displacement The next step is to take


Add a shadow One of the last ways the blood we’ve


the Alpha channel from Step 3 and blur it. Then apply a displacement to the shape using a 3D>Shape3D node with Plane selected and a 3D>Displace 3D node with Alpha selected, a Scale of 0.008 and a Bias of -0.5. This will result in a very small, but perceptible height difference so that the blood looks like it has some depth, or thickness, to it in 3D. You can now make adjustments to this according to the needs of your own scene.

created could look more realistic in the final film is to have a shadow applied. For this, start with the Alpha channel from Step 4. Let’s start by adding a Background node from the Creator menu to the node tree, increase the Red value to 0.06 and change Depth to ‘32bit float’. Then add a Blur node with a blur size of 20 to blur the edges of your shadow, and add a Shape3D node with Plane selected and a subdivision level of 600 with no displacement so that the shadow remains flat. This allows you to then place it underneath the blood in the 3D scene and combine both the blood and the shadow together using a Merge node.



Light the scene Now you need to light the scene using a Spotlight node from 3D>Light, and then, finally, also add a 3D camera to the scene with Far Clip set to 4000, a Horizontal Angle of View Type and Angle of View and Focal Length settings to match the camera from the original rushes. You can then move the camera around in 3D space until the blood lines up with the still you are using.


Create a character mask Now that you’ve put all the elements into a core scene, create a mask for the character so that the 3D blood would appear to emanate from underneath him. To do that, create a mask based on the original still using a Mask>Mask Paint node. Then use a Shape3D node to place the mask into 3D space, making it easier to effectively cut the 3D blood down the middle, giving the illusion that the character is lying on top of it. Finally, we finish things off using a few Colour Correction nodes, a ramp Blur to emulate the same depth of field seen in the original still and a Film>Grain node to better match the original still. Then render everything out in 3D space and the effect is complete! 06


Using Fusion for free Fusion is Blackmagic’s visual effects software solution. It’s a professional node-based compositor at heart, but also has a great 3D workspace that has proven useful for both motion graphics and animation. Fusion can be downloaded for free for both Windows and Mac OS X from Blackmagic’s website at


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Create a custom character for animation W

e will be taking a close look at the iClone 3DXchange pipeline and showcasing how quick and easy creating a customised character ready for animation can be. First we will jump into iClone with the add-on Character Creator. There we will begin morphing our character’s proportions and features to get the model started by simply clicking on the highlighted areas of the mesh and dragging the cursor. This will become our base mesh for the remainder of the pipeline. Then we will import the model into 3DXchange to create a file we can bring into ZBrush to sculpt and paint on. Think of 3DXchange as our bridge program, enabling us to maintain proper files for our mesh, textures, and rig for animation throughout the pipeline. Once we complete our sculpting and painting we will export our mesh and texture maps, and bring them back to 3DXchange. During this step we will be replacing the original base mesh with our newly deformed mesh, as well as plugging in our texture, normal and specular maps. Next export the mesh to iClone Character Creator where we can further our deformations, continue to adjust our proportions and finalise the look of our custom model. We will also add hair, pants, shirt, shoes and assets to our finalised character. And to complete the pipeline we will be sending our character to iClone to apply animations and bring our character to life.




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Create base mesh Begin the process by opening iClone Character Creator and morphing the character by clicking and dragging on different areas of the mesh. For this example, choose the Heavy Male Base Model that is unclothed to start with and then deform the mesh to make the character mesh shorter. Give him larger hands, feet and head, as well as

deform the chest and neck. Also adjust the facial features to try and get the character mesh as close as you possibly can to any concepts that you have. Once the deformations are complete, save the file and export the mesh as an iAvatar with a simple click of a button.


Work in 3DXchange In this step open up the

iAvatar file of the base mesh inside of 3DXchange. Here we will be exporting the mesh as an OBJ file for use in ZBrush. Once the base mesh is imported to ZBrush we can begin subdividing and sculpting the character. Subdivide the mesh five times, then go under the Deformations tab to use the Polish slider bar. Smooth out the mesh even further and remove any lumps to achieve a nice smooth starting point. Drop down to subdivision level 3 and use Polish, then step up to 4 and repeat. Finally at level 5, do it once more and you will get a smooth surface base mesh quickly.


Sculpt details Now we are ready to push the deformations and details of our character to its limits and generate a totally new look for the character altogether. Use the Move Typology brush for the first round and focus mostly on the shaping of the silhouette of the mesh before adding in any major details. Generally you want to build up to higher resolution details gradually while sculpting. Once this stage is complete, make use of the ClayBuildup and Dam_ Standard brushes to create wrinkles and folds in the face. Then add in a scar with stitches to the cheek, as if the goblin character had been in a fight, to add characterisation to our model and see how well the details would transfer over throughout the pipeline.


Polypaint the model In ZBrush make sure you are



at the lowest subdivision level and then export. Save the file as an OBJ and return to ZBrush. Select the Skin shader material and the colour of the skin to serve as your base tone. Highlight MRGB on the top toolbar, and go to Color/Fill Object to apply these settings. Now you can begin painting directly on the model. Use the Standard brush with RGB on only, and begin adding in highlights and shadows to the model. Use hPolish with RGB on only, which works nicely because it only paints on the peaks of your model’s details if you use a low RGB intensity and brush very lightly while painting the mesh. Don’t forget you can use different masking selections to isolate areas of high detail while painting.


Export texture maps Under the tool panel go to the Polygroups tab and select Auto Groups With UV. This will separate the mesh into multiple polygroups based on their UV shells. Now we just need to isolate the proper groups and create our maps. Ctrl+Shift+click the head to the character mesh to make every other group invisible. Invert the visible groups now and Ctrl+Shift+click the ears, lips and mouth cavity. Invert the visibility again and go to Texture Map/Created under the Tool panel and at the highest subdivision level click New From Polypaint. Now click Clone New Txtr, flip it on the v axis and export the map. At the lowest subdivision level you will do this for your normal map creation as well. Repeat this for each texture and normal map you have painted including the body and arms, as well as for maps for finger and toenails.








Finalise in Character Creator In 3DXchange

open the iAvatar file we began with to replace the old base mesh with the newly created one. Under the Modify tab on the right select Face Setup from the drop-down list. Use the scroll bar under the Morph List, go to the top and select the root node labelled Body. Click Replace Mesh, which should now be highlighted, and import the OBJ file exported last from ZBrush. This step can also be done to each individual morph target by exporting to an external program like ZBrush, altering the Morph Target and replacing them back inside of 3DXchange to make corrections and adjustments. Once the mesh is replaced go to the drop-down tab again under Modify and this time select Material. Use the eyedropper to select the face, body, finger and toenails, and replace the appropriate texture and normal maps for each area. Once everything is replaced export the model by clicking the iC export icon on the top toolbar. Open the file once more inside of iClone Character Creator and make as many adjustments as you would like.


You can duplicate your base mesh if you want to run DynaMesh on it within this pipeline. Once it is duplicated hide the original, and run DynaMesh on the new SubTool at a fairly high resolution. Once you are done sculpting, simply project it back onto the original base mesh.

Animate in iClone Once you have completed

finalising the character, click on the Send Character to iClone icon on the top toolbar and your character will be automatically transferred. You can also create custom assets, we’ve done our own here to apply to the final character model. The helmet we created was imported into 3DXchange, where textures were applied and custom iProps were created by clicking the C Export icon. You can then import the iProps into iClone and place them on the character. Once correctly positioned, parent them to the respective locations. For the cloth of the helmet and waist, create black-and-white weight maps and apply them back in iClone to get them simulating in real-time. Finally apply the character to iClone for some animation, tweak it and you’ll be able to render out an HD movie in a matter of minutes.




Build bronze materials and shaders in Houdini T




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here is nothing quite like having a great shader to complement the other aspects of your setup or scene. It can make a texture go from looking good to looking great, and it can complement an already well-designed light setup. Building shaders often requires an observant eye and a fair amount of patience. Whatever 3D software you use, each one of them will offer a slightly unique approach to shader building. For this tutorial we will be using Houdini, but we would like to think that this approach can be followed along in almost all 3D packages, since it is the methodology that is the most important aspect of this. The purpose of this tutorial is to hopefully help you to understand certain aspects of building a metallic material using the tools involved, and to also show how important it is to have a workflow that is technically accurate but also allows for visual appeal. Ultimately we are always trying to sell our creations visually, and it is not just about how realistic something looks, but also how appealing it is to the viewer. One of the other key reasons these shaders were created is because as much as it is enjoyable to work with software such as Substance Painter/Designer or MARI, you can still save yourself so much time by having a prebuilt library of materials that you know works. Top-quality texture software such as the ones we have mentioned are so important to have, but building these just means that you can start

focusing your attention on more detail-orientated aspects of the work. Finally, grunge maps play a crucial role in this approach, and there is a wealth of free resources online. We would have to recommend that you spend some time gathering as many as you can before embarking on this quite simple, but hopefully, visually satisfying journey of bronze shader building in Houdini.


Create an indoor studio setup Start by creating an infinity curve, or sweep. After this, place an area light to the left with a slightly warm temperature of around 4,500K. Then place the fill light on the right with a cooler temperature of around 7,000K. The final area light is placed directly above the subject matter and it is neutral (pure white) in temperature. Finally, place an environment light with an appropriate HDR for added interest regarding reflections. Balancing the lights correctly is key and be sure to not overexpose any of them, as it will result in blown-out highlights.


Work on an outdoor lighting environment This setup is mostly driven by the HDRI map that you choose. For this example, choose a daytime map with almost no shadows cast from surroundings that would affect the subject matter. There are plenty of free maps that are available from '"1+ 2ē!.,, with this one being Ditch River. Add a ground plane as a shadow catcher onto which we are

projecting the rendered visible portion of the environment map. As the shadows appear a bit soft, which is common with HDRI lighting, you can add a direct light to the scene that matches the angle of the Sun.




Tileable texture maps Since we would like to create the shaders without having the distraction of having to specifically paint any textures, we need to make sure that all of the texture maps are tileable, giving the flexibility to repeat them as needed. Grunge maps play a huge role in this setup, as they have the type of randomness needed to convincingly pull off certain kinds of looks. If you do have a great looking map that is not tileable, you can easily correct this by going into Photoshop and then utilising the Offset feature in the Filters menu. 02

Using Substance Painter If you have software such as Substance Painter or Designer, then you definitely want to be using it for this tutorial. Substance has brilliant tools for generating natural weathering and general wear and tear, and would certainly make the texture creation portion of this process much easier. There are no points for doing something the hard way! The process of obtaining grunge maps online that we have mentioned here is only for those who don’t have access to texturing software that could otherwise generate the needed effects quite easily.

All tutorial files can be downloaded from:




Set up the base shader After creating an Arnold


Lighting is key

Standard material inside the shopnet, start by replacing the standard node with an AlSurface and connect its RGB output to the surface connection of the OUT_material. In the AlSurface diffuse tab, lower the strength to 0, while in the specular 1 tab make sure the Strength is on 1. Change the Fresnel Mode to Metallic and set the IOR value to 1.18. Also make sure that the Specular 2 Strength value is set to 0, as secondary specular contributions aren’t needed. Lastly, it is a good idea to change the Specular 1 distribution model to GGX for more accurate highlights and falloff.

We can’t stress how important it is to have a proper lighting setup as you cannot expect anything to look as good as it could while your lighting is lacking. There are presets available online, but there is something hugely satisfying about creating your own and it is what ultimately sells the image. Take time, if needed, to get to grips with the lights in your scene, understand what each of them are doing and contributing, and research lighting setups that photographers use, or even reverse engineer some of their work.


Tint the material The AlSurface comes with a nifty feature that allows you to tint your specular channel using the Reflectivity (normal incidence) and Edge Tint (glancing incidence) parameters, instead of the usual specular colour. For Reflectivity, use a pre-made texture map with a value of RGB 153, 126 and 96. Then create a colour correct node separate to the Reflectivity connection, input the texture map into that and alter the gamma to 1.5, plugging the result into the Edge Tint value. Using this non-destructive approach, you can update the Reflectivity value map at any stage, knowing that the Edge Tint value will shift accordingly.


Add inconsistencies to the reflection To add

visual interest, begin by targeting the Specular Roughness value. Create a ramp_RGB node, delete any one of the two default values and alter the remaining one to a value of RGB 90, 90 and 90. Finally, connect it to your roughness parameter. Create an image node with a tileable grunge map attached and combine it with your ramp_RGB using a mix node. Control the values of your grunge texture by using a colour correct node, tweaking the result as needed, at the same time controlling how much is mixed in with your ramp through the mix value. 06






Detail the surface texture The value of the specular roughness channel can also be used to drive the bump parameter. By taking the result of Step 6 and adding it to a bump2d node, we can then connect it to the bump input of the OUT_material. Since even new, polished materials have some degree of subtle weathering, a scratch texture works quite well. Creating another Image node with your scratch texture attached, feed it into its own bump2d node before mixing the two bump2d nodes together. The bump height values will need to be controlled for all of the connections.

08 09

Create various looks This current shader setup should now be enough to give at least three of the variations listed. The polished material can have very slight surface defects with regards to scratches and the roughness value. The matte shader can be achieved by altering the roughness value with a colour correct node and increasing the gamma value. The rough version of the shader is almost the same as the polished, but the bump values are increased to give the appearance of a more weathered surface texture.


Oxidise the metal Create a separate AlSurface and

use a diffuse colour of around RGB 73, 110 and 92 with a diffuse strength of 1. The specular colour has a fairly dark value of RGB 70, 70 and 70 and the roughness is RGB 30, 30 and 30. Mix a grunge map into the above three to create nice variation. Use an alLayer node to mix the two separate surfaces together, with the oxidised look having more minimal coverage and the corroded look having the majority of the coverage. For added visual interest, mix a spotted map into your roughness value to give a more inconsistent ďŹ nish to the brass material.








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Kless Gyzen Incredible 3D artists take us

behind their artwork

LIGHTING I really enjoy creating environments and landscapes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; when it comes down to how I make an environment, lighting is a super important aspect for making a believable scene. With most of my scenes I like to use Pro-Lighting Skies: an add-on for Blender that streamlines an HDRI setup and makes lighting a scene very easy.

76 Kless is 21 years old. He is a self-taught artist and has been modelling for about three years

Software Blender

Light House, 2016



PNY NVID QuadroM The M2000 brings a more mo second rung on NVIDIA’s Qu


he last Quadro card in the line-up use NVIDIA’s ancient Kepler de the M2000 has been updated more efficient Maxwell architecture popular £400 to £500 price point really took its time with improvin first Maxwell-based Quadro ca last year, and until now the K2 behind as a far slower, poor professional GPU for artist the other cards in that lin The card is a single-s 16.7cm long, slightly sh predecessor; it will s all kinds of workstations. I dinky desktop system, it will fit in corporate chassis or even a home-built Mini-ITX rendering rig. And compared with the other Quadro graphics cards available, it’s relatively affordable too. For these two reasons, the M2000 will certainly find its way into millions of workstations, powering engineering and scientific applications as well as 3D art and design work. Unlike other Quadro cards, the move to Maxwell hasn’t meant an increase to the 4GB of GDDR5 memory, but the memory bandwidth has been bumped by 25 per cent from 80GB/sec to 106GB/sec and the shader count has gone from 640 to 768. The 1,108MHz core clock speed has been kept roughly the same, and the overall power usage is up from 60w to 75w. The biggest news on the software side is full support for DirectX 12 along with OpenGL 4.5. Physically, aside from the shorter length, the M2000 changes little. It retains an array of four DisplayPort 1.2 outputs and (thankfully) it requires no external power connector either. The PNY Quadro M2000 arrived in a prebuilt workstation from PC Specialist, which is a rendering system with a Core i7-6700K, representative of the type of mid-range specification that we expect to be paired with the M2000. The K2200 isn’t known for being a real-time performance champion. It’s a small card, and only the second rung in the Quadro line-up. The M4000 offers significantly better performance and until the launch of the M2000, it made a lot of sense to dig deeper into your wallet in order to avoid the


M200 Is it wort upgrade, possibly compute-based work or rea the M4000 offers a big upwards l processing power. Despite the significant price difference, we still think it makes sense to opt for that higher performance tier, particularly if your workload absolutely depends on GPU-based compute processing of heavy-detail scenes. Of all the workstation upgrades you could make, more GPU power will be the one that goes the furthest in improving rendering times. But you might not get a choice. The M2000 is sure to become a standard feature in pre-assembled professional systems costing less than £1,500, and while PNY can’t offer the earth in such a small piece of silicon, it won’t really disappoint in any way. It provides modest real-time and compute rendering muscle in OpenCL and CUDAaccelerated software, and at this tier of graphics card, that’s really all you can expect. Orestis Bastounis

MAIN The M2000 is even shorter than its predecessor, which makes it easier to squeeze into small form-factor PCs

The M2000 will certainly find its way into millions of workstations

BOTTOM LEFT ll power is drawn from the PCI-Express slot, without any additional connection to the power supply BOTTOM MIDDLE The M2000 is a huge step up from the K620 and K420 entry-level Quadros BOTTOM RIGHT It won’t break the bank, and the M2000 offers solid 3D performance and GPU compute functions BELOW DirectX 12 support is a great addition, as is support for OpenGL 4.5, Vulkan 1.0 and Shader Model 5.0

Essential info Price Website RAM CUDA cores Memory bandwidth Support Power consumption

£450 4GB GDDR5 768 106GB/sec DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5 75w

Summary Features Performance Design Value for money

Verdict The M2000 offers evolutionary improvements and delivers good, if not earth-shattering, results



NUKEX 10 Announced in late 2015, the latest iteration of the NUKE product range has finally hit the virtual shelves


he old adage of ‘why fix it if it’s not broken’ comes to mind with the release of NUKE 10 – but in a positive way. There’s been no unwarranted tweaks to the UI, thankfully, or gimmicky tools added. Instead The Foundry has focused on customer feedback to squish a stack of bugs, and honed in on bottlenecks that artists face on a day-to-day basis with new features and performance improvements. We loaded up full-fat NUKEX to try them out. Roto and prep artists will be thrilled to discover that revisions and fixes to the RotoPaint node make it far more efficient than before. With increasing amounts of footage being shot in 4K, the node was becoming unduly problematic. The main improvements are to the stability and functionality when using a lot of brush strokes, which is common with object/wire removal, matte painting, set extension, clean plate generation and so on. Whereas before you would quickly experience slowdown and possibly crashes, NUKE is now capable of being pushed easily beyond 1,000 strokes and is noticeably more responsive. While cleaning up footage of a blue tit shot with a Sigma DSLR 150-500mm lens on a Canon 7D Mark II, which is prone to softening and artifacts, we could do everything we needed without multiple RotoPaint nodes and we gave up trying to break the node. If you do reach the upper limit then the old fix of adding another should suffice. The new Smart Vector toolset (confusingly called Smart Paint when it was first announced) offers an automatic workflow for cleaning and paintwork. It analyses motion in a plate to generate vectors, enabling images to be deformed across a surface. After choosing the vector detail that sets the quality, choose a path to render out the vectors as EXR files. We used full HD footage with 760 frames which rendered three or four seconds per frame. The Smart Vector works with Vector


Distort and between them there aren’t that many settings to learn. You’ll need to choose a clean frame as the reference frame for the VectorDistort and, depending on how fast your footage is, tweak the frame distance for vector interpolation. Once done, pipe into the Src input an image of your choice. After adding a CornerPin and Translate to place a tattoo on photographer’s shoulder, problems appeared for us as the photographer raised her arm and the tattoo became overdistorted in scale. This was resolved by tweaking the Transform and CornerPin settings easily enough. Standard practice nodes such as ColorCorrect further helped with integration. The versatility of the Smart Vector toolset is a bonus, another use could be to cover up tracking markers or place a logo for example. NUKE 10 also adds a RayRender node that serves as an alternative to the ScanlineRender. Currently in beta and not recommended for production use, it introduces raytrace rendering options in post to produce reflection and ambient occlusion passes with the idea of negating the need to go back to 3D. It was very quick to set up and use; there were some quality issues mainly with AO during testing but for a node in beta it’s a tantalising glimpse into the future of NUKE. Other enhancements include broader GPU support including for NVIDIA multi-GPU and AMD cards for MacBook Pro. A new VectorBlur2 node includes presets for render formats to apply to motion vectors that include RenderMan, Arnold, V-Ray, mental ray and MODO and offers faster results by optionally harnessing the GPU. There are also improvements to colour pipeline tools including integration of ACES and OpenColourIO, removing the need to add OCIO ColorSpace nodes. Paul Champion

MAIN RotoPaint has been overhauled making it more responsive, and a lot of bugs stretching back several versions have been resolved BOTTOM MIDDLE The Smart Vector toolset offers an automated solution to quickly remove or cover something up or add an image into footage BOTTOM RIGHT The RayRender node is a true 3D raytraced renderer that looks set to be a replacement for the old renderer

Roto and prep artists will be thrilled to discover that revisions and ďŹ xes to the RotoPaint node make it far more efficient

BELOW The new VectorBlur2 has a broader range of features to provide higher quality motion blur render time

Essential info Price Website OS Processor Hard disk RAM Display

ÂŁ4,845 / $7,998 Windows 7 and up (64-bit only) / Mac OS X 10.9 and up / Linux 5 or 6 (64-bit only) x86, 64-bit 5GB 8GB 1280 x 1024 pixel resolution, 24-bit colour

Summary Features Performance Design Value for money

Verdict NUKEX 10 is very much a recommended upgrade mainly for the RotoPaint, the Smart Vector toolset and the additional GPU support



MODO 10 The modelling and texturing tool expands its feature set to empower game artists and streamline processes


he latest release of MODO focuses mainly on improvements for game artists. It features a number of new features and upgrades to make life easier for work on game assets and baking. It boosts an already-solid modelling program with some much-needed tools that make it easier to work with real-time engines. The largest new features and improvements lie in the new games layout and the tools within it. The Game Tools layout is a new tab that gathers many of the game-art specific tools in one place, with export settings and options for FBX, baking information for baking out textures, as well as a section for editing vertex normals. Many of the new additions are things that you were able to work around in earlier versions of MODO in various ways, but for newcomers this is an extra welcome addition since it reduces the amount of problem solving to reach the expected results. Also the new solutions are easy to find. Baking items is one of the new additions, which is a new way to organise your baking and save your baking settings; it comes in handy if you have multiple bake setups in one scene or need to rebake something several times. The renderer is now also in sync with the viewport when it comes to the triangulation of polygons, which is a welcome fix for game artists as that should cut down on unnecessary steps in the baking process. Progressive baking is also a new feature, which is handy for heavier bakes and previewing them. The export section of the Game Tools layout has exposed all the export parameters for FBX, it also includes the latest FBX versions (up to version


2015) and easy access to setting export paths. The exporter now also supports instanced layers in MODO, so it’s possible to assemble scenes from meshes in MODO, and import them straight into the level editor in Unity and Unreal. Overall, the export process has been greatly improved, and is much more user friendly than in the earlier versions of MODO. The advanced viewport has also seen an overhaul, with the aim to match the in-engine viewports of Unreal Engine and Unity. It features support for PBR shaders and HDRI lighting, with shading options to match both Unreal Engine and Unity. New texture settings have been added to correspond to the common texture channels in Unreal and Unity for accurate texture representation. The viewport has some stability issues and some of the settings are a bit too taxing for proper real-time use, but overall it matches the look quite well, so previewing the assets before taking them to the game engine is now a breeze. For people who are new to MODO, and especially those who work with games, this version of MODO adds a lot of features that were sorely needed, and really simplifies some of the key workflows when working with game art. The core of the program is still very solid, with some new tools added, but with the addition of all the new game-focused features, MODO is a lot more attractive for game art. For previous owners, the upgrade is well worth it if you are a games artist – the amount of streamlining compared to previous versions is enough to motivate an upgrade. Tor Frick

Essential info Price Website OS RAM CPU HDD GPU RAM

£1,199 Windows 7 and up (64-bit only)/ Mac OS X 10.9 and up (64-bit only) 4GB Intel Core i3 or higher 10GB 512MB

Summary Features Performance Design Value for money

MAIN This is an Unreal Engine 4 model, displayed in the new advanced viewport, with ambient occlusion, HDRI light and real-time reflection FAR LEFT The advanced viewport features real-time shadows and HDRI lighting, with real-time reflections and screenspace ambient occlusion LEFT The new Game Tools layout feature has a progressive bake running in one window here, while keeping the other viewports interactable

Verdict For videogame artists who have been waiting to give MODO a shot, now is the time to take a look at it and download version 10


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Paul H Paulino

Incredible 3D artists take us

behind their artwork

DETAILING The gumball machine project was inspired by a James Gurney painting. To achieve a photorealistic render, I collected real-life references for the materials and worked on them separately. In MARI I added detail to each material and bring them to life. Some details make a huge difference like the glass smudges and the sticker on the red paint.

3DArtistOnline username paulhpaulino Software Maya, MARI,V-Ray, Photoshop

TheGumballMachine, 2016


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The inside guide to industry news, VFX studios, expert opinions and the 3D community

Every year BFX just keeps growing. We have involvement from the biggest studios in the world – superstars of the visual effects industry

088 Community News

BFX 2016

Sofronis Efstathiou, BFX Festival director

The BFX competition has begun, hosted at Bournemouth University

090 Industry News

Autodesk The software giant launches its Industry Collections

092 Project Focus

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst EA DICE and Geomerics discuss the complexities of accurately lighting Faith’s latest outing

096 Social

Readers’ Gallery 88

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The latest images created by the community



For blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, it was The Mippets who came out on top with their animation in 2015

BFX contest launches

The annual BFX Competition has just gotten underway, with teams of students from all around the UK entering for the chance to be mentored by industry experts


osted by Bournemouth University’s NCCA and the Framestore, Blue-Zoo, Outpost VFX and Aardman, as well Arts University Bournemouth, BFX has again as Jerry Hibbert, Paul Campion and academics from both partnered with media accountants Kingston Smith BU and AUB. All students are housed free of charge on the and its Creative Vision Award to offer charities the University campus, receive a stipend to help with living opportunity to win an industry-quality animation worth an costs, and have access to a dedicated BFX studio with a full estimated £150,000. The animations are created entirely by complement of industry-standard tools and hardware. As the talented students selected to compete in the well as benefitting from the competition experience itself, competition. More than 150 charities the competitors and their films will be applied, with Refuge and Create Arts in the running for a number of awards, being selected as the recipients of to be announced during the BFX the final films. Meanwhile 40 Festival taking place at the students working in teams of five Bournemouth International Centre were chosen from over 100 from 10 to 16 October. applicants as the 2016 competitors. Nick Brooks, head of not-for-profit During their seven-week at Kingston Smith and a member of residency, which runs from 11 July to the judging panel, comments: “We are 26 August, these fortunate students delighted with the response to our Nick Brooks, will be working directly with mentors second annual Creative Vision Award head of not-for-profit at Kingston Smith from MPC, Animal Logic, with over 150 entries received. The

Feedback from last year’s winners has been extremely positive, and we are thrilled with the meaningful impact that this initiative has had


feedback from last year’s winners has been extremely positive, and we are thrilled with the meaningful impact that this initiative has had. We’re making a difference, and we’re intensely proud of this, which is why Kingston Smith is committed to making this an ongoing award to support the sector and enable more charities to benefit from the medium of film.” Peter Truckel, director of the VFX Hub adds, “The BFX Competition is a unique residential event designed to identify and support the next generation of talent in the VFX and animation industry. The level of industry involvement really helps the teams produce work of an amazing standard and gives them a real taste of working in a high-pressure, commercial environment. Last year I managed to secure a four-year sponsorship deal with media accounts Kingston Smith; [its] involvement now means that the films created during the competition answer briefs designed to create brand content for national charities.” As well as hosting the BFX Competition Awards, October’s BFX Festival, which is now entering its fourth year, features a packed program of content from the world of visual effects, animation and games. Confirmed talks this year include Stars Wars: The Force Awakens from ILM, The Jungle Book from MPC, Ice Age: Collision Course from Blue Sky, Independence Day: Resurgence from Cinesite and Star Citizen from Cloud Imperium Games, with new content being continually lined up by organisers. The festival, which attracts more than 1,000 delegates, also features a Pro day run in collaboration with software developer The Foundry, aimed at visual effects and animation professionals where the latest techniques and emerging workflows will be discussed, and a family weekend featuring a host of family-friendly events and activities. Festival director Sofronis Efstathiou explains: “Every year BFX just keeps growing. We have involvement from the biggest studios in the world; superstars of the visual effects industry who want to be a part of the festival, share their work and give insights into some of the biggest and best movies and games. There will be something for everyone, from hands-on experiences for children right the way through to visual effects professionals.”

For Dyslexia Action, BFX team The Tree Huggers were victorious with their winning film ‘A Way out of the Woods’

Get in touch…

Besides the features funded by Kickstarter there’s a crowd of volunteers in the community who add features

Krita kickstarts version 3 The third in a series of annual crowdfunding campaigns surpasses its €30,000 target to guarantee the next iteration Krita started out as a traditional open source project: a small group of volunteers working in their spare time. In 2013, the Krita Foundation was set up to coordinate development and search for funding to pay for development. Krita’s latest fully funded Kickstarter campaign is called Let’s Make Text and Vector Art Awesome! “The process is important because it’s a yearly gettogether with the wider Krita user community,” explains Boudewijn Rempt, project lead at Krita Foundation. “When we make a list of features to vote for, we use the input we’ve got from users over the past year and try to make sure there’s


something for everyone. We were ambitious this time because we felt there were two or three really big issues: our text tool – inherited from a word processing application – is horrible, vector layers were also based on office tools, not artistic tools, and we were missing scriptability. So that’s what we went for this time and the community decided that we were right, since they supported us! We’ll be working on a new multilingual, OpenType-enabled text tool, SVG-based vector support and Python scripting, among some other things including an improved reference images panel and a colour mix pad.” 89


Krita 3.0 out now The Foundation boosts performance and adds frame-by-frame animation

Autodesk redesigns software bundles New subscription-only Industry Collections announced On 31 July Autodesk will cease selling Design and Creation Suites, and then from 1 August offer a new selection of software bundles. The new Industry Collections, titled Architecture, Engineering and Construction; Product Design; and Media and Entertainment are aimed at providing end users with greater flexibility and better value. It marks the next phase in Autodesk’s transition away from

Cloud services expanded Extra cloud services are included with Industry Collections. Character Generator, ReCap 360 Pro, rendering in A360 plus 25GB of storage are provided with the Media and Entertainment Industry Collection. When you subscribe to a collection with multi-user access, you will be able to grant shared access to cloud services for three named users.

software purchases as each collection will now be available as monthly, quarterly, annual and multi-year subscriptions. The all-encompassing Media and Entertainment collection removes the previous choice of three different editions by bundling together Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder and Mudbox and includes additional cloud services and storage. This makes it comparable to the Entertainment Creation Suites’ Ultimate Edition minus Softimage, which was discontinued in 2014 but continued to be offered in the Design and Creation Suites. Existing Design and Creation Suite customers will receive support and use of their Suite, plus the option to switch over from October if already a subscriber. Currently prices have only been released for single-user annual subscriptions, with the Media and Entertainment collection costing £1,630 per year excluding VAT. Multi-user access will be priced around 30 per cent more than single-user access for annual and multi-year lengths.

After a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign named ‘Krita: free paint app – let’s make it faster than Photoshop!’, Krita 3.0 is now officially released. As promised to backers there are performance increases, fast instant preview painting and a new animation toolset. Other key new features include onion skinning, real-time playback, caching that supports different frame rates (and for slower devices frame dropping during playback), and new options for working with and managing layers and UI refinements. Mac OS X compatibility has been improved and version 3.1 will have full support. Version 3.1 will also have a new tool for quickly colouring comic-book style, improved swatch handling, a stacked brush, export to animated GIF, heads-up-display for quickly changing brush settings, a better colour selector, more layer types will be animatable and animation will be steered with curves. There’ll also be soft-proofing and preview checks for colour blindness.

Fairy by Wolthera van Hövell tot Westerflier was an entry that was created for Krita’s monthly forum drawing challenge

HAVE YOU HEARD? At SIGGRAPH 2016, VR Village will celebrate the Summer of VR with cutting-edge installations 90

Anima 2 has a fresh start

Connectivity plugins are available for 3ds Max and Cinema 4D R14

AXYZ design goes back to the drawing board with its arch vis character animation toolkit Described as a completely new application, stand-alone crowd simulation tool Anima 2 has been completely rewritten and sports a brand-new simulation engine for improved animation. Developed for architects and designers to rapidly populate scenes, artists can quickly set up simulations by drawing a path and adding actors from either the Asset Library or custom third-party rigged characters with motion-capture data. Options are available to vary poses, texture maps and motion for more realistic scenes. Walkway tools provide controls to determine distribution, spacing, direction and clustering, and AI anticipates collisions between actors. Anima 2 is available on Windows for €249.

New 3D plugin store opens SiNi Software is a new start-up company developing plugins for 3ds Max, with Maya to follow Three plugins from SiNi Software are currently available to try for free. ForenSic, one of the 3ds Max plugins, offers users an overview of their scene and identifies problems within it. These overviews can then be fixed with a single click. It can also identify the last user to work on the scene file for projects with multiple members. The second of these, ProxSi, enables you to lock and protect geometry from any type of export when file sharing or collaborating with third parties to protect IP. Finally, you can use SiClone to array multiple objects with different parameters and individual control.

Software shorts Fusion 8.1 Blackmagic Design has released Fusion 8.1. The free update to the compositing and VFX application adds Fusion Connect for Avid as well as compatibility with the latest Avid Artist DNxIO video interface for Mac OS X and Windows. Fusion Connect for Avid was previously only available in Fusion Studio on Windows for $995.

Chaos Group releases V-Ray 3.4 The latest update provides compatibility with Autodesk 3ds Max 2017 and Maya 2016 Ext 2 Some updates are Max/Maya specific but changes common to both versions in V-Ray 3.4 include CPU and GPU-accelerated automatic denoising, up to 15 per cent faster global illumination calculations, GPU rendering improvements and colour control for atmospheric haze. The VRayDenoiser node works non-destructively by returning both the original render and a denoised version for further adjustment in post. The workflow aims to reduce render time by up to half and can be used progressively while rendering or after rendering, with support for animation and enhanced blending between frames with the stand-alone Denoiser tool. An incremental update to 3.40.02 adds minor modifications and bug fixes.

pp and Maya 2016 Ext 2 dominate the update

Bringing you the lowdown on product updates and launches Pulldownit 3.8 Now compatible with 3ds Max 2017 and Maya 2016 Ext 2, Pulldownit 3.8 adds a Wood Splinters Shatter feature that produces long, thin fragments and stable dynamics for splinter shapes. The Detect Mesh Groups shatter option produces correct shattering for combined meshes and the Jaggy feature applies roughness to inner faces.

Substance Painter 2.1 Following the recent integration of Substance Engine into Houdini 15, Allegorithmic has now released version 2.1 of Substance Painter. The new features are aimed at VFX artists and include Linux support, 8K map exports, easy conversion of UDIM files to Substance-ready texture sets and support for 4K high-DPI monitors.

DID YOU KNOW? Chaos Group Labs has released a free GPU Rendering Guide. Get it from 91


Mirror’s Edge Catalyst



ne theme that has permeated triple-A videogame development over the last decade has been that of the annual release. The whole market has started to revolve around the yearly race to get a game out and get it sold, which is good news for fans of series that adhere to this ‘rule’, of course, but what does it mean for the technology? With Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, EA and DICE have done quite the opposite – this is the sequel to a cult hit from eight years ago. Naturally, this means that DICE had a more advanced arsenal at its disposal when developing Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, with greater scope for pushing environments, lighting and effects to the limit due to the power of the latest generation of consoles. “The current generation of consoles is closer to the PC in terms of performance and architecture, which really helps when authoring content and code,” begins Fabien Christin, senior lighting artist at EA DICE. “The amount of memory available on the previous consoles would have been a real blocker to [creating] large environments like the ones in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst – the lighting data alone would have filled the memory entirely.” From a technical standpoint, the most interesting – and ever so slightly masochistic – decision the team at DICE made was to set Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in a glass-ridden city called, well, Glass. Of course, building a vast first-person experience in a huge, open world with glass (which means all sorts of nasty light refraction, reflections, shadows and others for the engine to deal with) posed a significant challenge for the art team. “It was a mutual decision – we felt this was something we had to do,” says Christin, when we ask him if Glass’s concept was born in the art department or in game design. “We wanted to create a world where you could run around freely and use Faith’s parkour skills to traverse the city the way you wanted. Then, you need a lot of space, and we had to make sure it was an interesting journey through the spaces. “From a visual perspective we used the visual impressions to create a vibrant and immersive world to traverse, with distinct visual signatures for the different districts and mission buildings. We used other tools like atmosphere, colour, lighting advertising and the architecture itself to make the spaces feel captivating, but also readable – the architecture had to support the gameplay.” Faith’s latest adventure asked a lot of Christin and his crew. “Introducing a dynamic time of day was definitely the biggest challenge, [as] all our lighting had to be updated in real-time,” he says. “The Mirror’s Edge art direction relies on highly saturated surfaces that bounce the lighting, and in the first game this was achieved using static light maps. “For Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, we had to find a way to get this global illumination to update in real-time, while still providing a resolution that is high enough to catch all the colour details of the surfaces. The other challenge with the time of day is the fact that the lighting is not really predictable. When your

Rather than focusing on a real-world aesthetic, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst boasts bold, minimalist environments

All images © Electronic Arts 2016

Website Location Sweden / UK Project Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Project description Utilising Geomerics’ Enlighten technology and the Frostbite engine, EA DICE realised a vast glass city in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the sequel to the cult first-person free-running game Mirror’s Edge Studio EA DICE / Geomerics Contributors Fabien Christin, senior lighting artist, EA DICE Chris Porthouse, general manager, Geomerics

We sit down with EA DICE and Geomerics to chat about the sequel’s unique art direction

The original Mirror’s Edge looked amazing on PC compared to its console equivalents. Thanks to the power of PS4 and Xbox One, Catalyst’s stunning visuals can be enjoyed on console

Geomerics’ Enlighten technology provides efficient GI solutions to top-end developers like EA DICE



According to Fabien Christin, the idea was to make the environments in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst feel almost like pieces of modern art

COLD AS ICE Fabien Christin from EA DICE highlights the impressive abilities the Frostbite engine has to offer “Frostbite gives a lot of controls to the user. It allows the artists to go really deep into shading, lighting and rendering to give the exact look we want for our games. The learning curve might be steep because of all the settings available, but once you know Frostbite well, you really appreciate to have this much control, to be able to optimise your content to create 60 frames per second games without compromising on quality. “Our visual scripting tool also empowers the artists to create in-game behaviours. For Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, our tech programmer created a clock and a component that would check what time it is in the game. [These elements were] enough for us to create a complete time-of-day system, without using any lines of code. We connected our assets to the clock using nodes to dynamically turn on the lights at night, to control the sky rotation [and] to change camera effects and colours depending on the time of day.”


Building game environments almost entirely out of glass and other reflective materials posed a challenge for the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst lighting team

The city is designed to look like a contemporary art piece – all buildings are made of white, clean and often reflective materials

All images © Electronic Arts 2016

Fabien Christin, senior lighting artist, EA DICE lighting is static, you can place the sunlight at a certain angle, so it goes perfectly through the windows and lights up your interior. You can arrange the environment so you create interesting shadows or silhouettes. When your lighting is dynamic you lose this control, and getting an environment to look interesting and readable for the player at different times of day requires a lot more work.” What is true for both Catalyst and the original Mirror’s Edge is the unique aesthetic it purveys – one of bold colours, swathes of white and harsh edges. It’s a striking imagining of a dystopian future that looks sterile and clean while still offering an assault of reds and blues, oranges and greens. Christin offers that this presented challenges in itself. “While other games focus on adding more details in the textures and adding more objects in the scenes to make the environments as realistic as possible, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’s art direction is based on minimalism and elegance. The city is designed to look like a contemporary art piece – all buildings are made of white, clean and often reflective materials. This was a challenge, as it proved to be much harder to create striking visuals with so little detail in the environment. “Glass materials are also a strong signature of the city; you usually don’t see that much transparency in videogames, mostly for technical and performance reasons. We also gave a lot of attention to the composition of the frame in key locations that the player [would] traverse as they explore the city. We carefully adjusted the heights and shapes of the buildings to create ‘mountains’ and ‘valleys’ – to create strong visual impacts as well as helping with navigation.” Propping up the demanding work that Christin and his team so deftly conquered was Enlighten – Geomerics’ advanced global illumination solution. This efficient tech was crucial in getting the city of Glass to look as intended. “Enlighten offers unprecedented quality lighting with significant workflow benefits,” says Chris Porthouse, general manager of Geomerics. “It supports physically based shaders to enable consistent material responses across multiple lighting setups. The ability to update lights and materials at runtime also opens up new gameplay possibilities, such as player-controlled lighting as seen in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. “Lighting is imperative to setting the atmosphere of a game and as a tool to evoke emotion in a scene. Global illumination can bring life to objects and draw the eyes to important areas of focus. Delivering stunning visuals requires the developer to get the maximum performance from available hardware. Enlighten is incredibly efficient, especially where budget is constrained. Because the runtime calculations are asynchronous to the main rendering thread, it can be configured to have almost no impact on frame rate. “This flexibility empowers developers to increase the complexity of lighting effects, achieve [a] higher performance or set a specific budget. In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the team was able to develop a visually impressive and smooth time of day cycle with complex lighting updating seamlessly – all with a global illumination budget of only 3ms.”


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Images of the month

Image of the month

These are the 3D projects that have been awarded ‘Image of the week’ on in the last month 01 Skyjet by Facundo Giovannone 3DA username 3dpihilosophy Facundo Giovannone says: “The vehicle represents a retro and modern design blend of a flying artefact. The design principle is based on rusted metal and a vehicle that has been used in combat or used in expeditions.” We say: Facundo’s choice of materials really makes this vehicle stand out, and the roughness around the edges gives it a sense of context. It certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a dusty old spaceport like Mos Eisley.

02 Dwarf Warrior by Panuwat Bovornsirisarp 3DA username Eternity-nu Panuwat Bovornsirisarp says: “Here is my latest work, Dwarf Warrior. I designed and sculpted the form in ZBrush and I used KeyShot for rendering. I was inspired by World Of Warcraft.” We say: This is a lovely clay render from Panuwat that boasts an awful lot of interesting details. We really like the variety that is showcased in the armour and the wrinkles on his face add a lot of character.


03 Girl hair render (Type 1) by Andrew Krivulya aka Charly 3DA username artofcharly Andrew Krivulya says: “Hello everyone! This is my hair render in Octane. I used Ornatrix for grooming and styling hair.” We say: Creating realistic hair for characters is never an easy task, so we were really impressed with what Andrew has achieved here. Check out his profile for other styles!

04 Desolation by Amaru Zeas 3DA username amaruzeas Amaru Zeas says: “I love Mad Max: Fury Road so I decided to create the Interceptor and create my own little story. I utilised Maya and mental ray for the modelling and rendering, Mudbox for sculpting rocks, Vue for rendering the distant mountains, Substance Painter for 8K textures and Photoshop for compositing.” We say: We’re massive fans of Mad Max: Fury Road as well, so this render leapt out at us straight away. It’s clear that an awful lot of work has gone into the creation of this scene.



Dragonfly Macrophotography by Fredi Walker 3DA username Fwalker Fredi Walker says: “I wanted to replicate the appearance of SEM (scanning electron microscope) style photos. Rendered in Arnold with the use of a custom rim shader, the mesh was sculpted in ZBrush and post effects were applied in Photoshop.” We say: Fredi has achieved the desired style and then some – this is almost indistinguishable from SEM imagery. It would be great to see the same style applied to a variety of different creatures.


Sky Whale Tours by Ian Best 3DA username Husbandofemily Ian Best says: “This was a game model I got carried away with. I had to teach myself volumetric clouds using online tutorials – it took a long time before I was happy with them!” We say: We love the abstract style inherent in this scene and the grainy quality makes it feel like an old photograph in a newspaper. Ian has done a great job with the clouds – proof that tutorials work!


Lamborghini Gallardo by Kamal Aggarwal 3DA username kamal aggarwal Kamal Aggarwal says: “This Lamborghini is one of my favourite vehicles. I wanted to give it a royal and classy touch so I chose to make a red Lamborghini on a red background. I thought that if I gave this a bird’s-eye view it would become a nice work of my imagination.” We say: We agree that using a strong colour for the model and the background create a really classy aesthetic. It doesn’t always work, but it does here. 97


Hang Li Incredible 3D artists take us

behind their artwork

SKIN RENDERING When I work on a skin shader, the most important part is specular. I always spend time on adjusting parameters like specular roughness and bump weight carefully, they affect the feeling of skin greatly. For SSS, remember that there is a principle: when you can see it, it’s too much so keep the SSS radius at a low value!

98 Hang has over seven years of professional experience both in feature film and animation Software ZBrush, MARI, Maya, Arnold, NUKE

Oriental Druid, 2016


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