Page 1

REALFLOW TIPS Learn to develop and control viscous fluids to an industry standard




Practical inspiration for the 3D community


BLUR STUDIO EXCLUSIVE The king of videogame cinematics reveals all




Get the best out of 3D design’s most famous software

PHOTOREALISTIC UNBELIEVABLE UNIQUE BLENDER CHARACTERS ZBRUSH SCULPTS ENVIRONMENTS Create a Walking Dead skin effect Re-create classical masterpieces Master low-poly techniques Animation for games SimLab Composer Pro Twinmotion reviewed


THE ART OF TATTOOING Embellish your renders in ZBrush and Photoshop


Amazing renderings and animations. In realtime.

The flexibility to work with your ZBrush/Maya/3DS/ files. Luscious materials that are ready at the starting gate. More time to create beautiful images. Less time wasted. You can create high-quality visuals faster than ever before, and you can do it using KeyShot.

Model by Luigi Memola

Learn more at

I start by sketching the future model right in 3ds Max with basic primitives (circles, boxes, cylinders and so on). It helps me to sculpt a visible shape and the figure Vladislav Ociacia on planning his Robotic Panther model Page 26

Vladislav Ociacia

Software 3ds Max, Photoshop

Master the art of 3ds Max

Page 22


Imagine Publishing Ltd Richmond House, 33 Richmond Hill Bournemouth, Dorset BH2 6EZ ☎ +44 (0) 1202 586200 Web:

Magazine team Editor Steve Holmes ☎ 01202 586248

Editor in Chief Amy Squibb Production Editor Carrie Mok Senior Designer Newton Ribeiro de Oliveira Photographer James Sheppard Senior Art Editor Will Shum Publishing Director Aaron Asadi Head of Design Ross Andrews Contributors

Paul Champion, Vikrant Dalal, Ian Failes, Paul Hatton, John C Martin II, Reynante Martinez, Lewis Pickston, Reza Sedghi, Maarten Verhoeven, Poz Watson, Damon Woods


Digital or printed media packs are available on request. Head of Sales Hang Deretz ☎ 01202 586442 Account Manager Simon Hall ☎ 01202 586415

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3D Artist is available for licensing. Contact the International department to discuss partnership opportunities. Head of International Licensing Cathy Blackman ☎ +44 (0) 1202 586401


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Sculpt and render a zombie bust Page 62


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To the magazine and 100 pages of amazing 3D Welcome to 3D Artist! There’s a reason why 3ds Max has endured for so many years as one of the best 3D tools on the market – versatility. Still the program of choice for many of you, it sits at the heart of a huge amount of professional pipelines. In response to this, we’ve collected three fun, punchy tutorials for you to enjoy in our cover feature, looking at hard-surface modelling, building assets for games and exploring 3ds Max’s incredible deformers. One studio that gets the most out of Max on a daily basis is Blur. We were lucky enough to visit its offices back in August of last year and met the ridiculously

talented team that has brought loads of our favourite games to life in its cinematics. Discover how the team built its reputation and meet the individuals driving the creative process in our exclusive on p30. In addition, we’ve put together a brilliant selection of tutorials to kick off 2016, including low-poly environments in Blender, a classical sculpture masterclass, zombie sculpting tips, viscous fluids in RealFlow, tattooing in ZBrush and more. As always, we love to hear your thoughts and want you to help us shape the magazine – if there’s anything crucial that you want covered in 2016, don’t hesitate to let us know! Enjoy the mag.

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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.

Steve Holmes, Editor © Imagine Publishing Ltd 2016 ISSN 1759-9636

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/chillblast 䤀渀琀攀氀Ⰰ 琀栀攀 䤀渀琀攀氀 䰀漀最漀Ⰰ 䤀渀琀攀氀 䤀渀猀椀搀攀Ⰰ 䤀渀琀攀氀 䌀漀爀攀Ⰰ 愀渀搀 䌀漀爀攀 䤀渀猀椀搀攀 愀爀攀 琀爀愀搀攀洀愀爀欀猀 漀昀 䤀渀琀攀氀 䌀漀爀瀀漀爀愀琀椀漀渀 椀渀 琀栀攀 唀⸀匀⸀ 愀渀搀⼀漀爀 漀琀栀攀爀 挀漀甀渀琀爀椀攀猀⸀ 吀攀爀洀猀 愀渀搀 挀漀渀搀椀琀椀漀渀猀 愀爀攀 漀渀 琀栀攀 眀攀戀猀椀琀攀⸀ 䄀氀氀 吀爀愀搀攀洀愀爀欀猀 愀爀攀 愀挀欀渀漀眀氀攀搀最攀搀⸀ 倀椀挀琀甀爀攀猀 愀爀攀 昀漀爀 椀氀氀甀猀琀爀愀琀椀漀渀 漀渀氀礀⸀ 倀爀椀挀攀猀 愀爀攀 挀漀爀爀攀挀琀 愀琀 琀椀洀攀 漀昀 最漀椀渀最 琀漀 瀀爀攀猀猀 ⠀㈀㄀⸀㄀㈀⸀㈀ ㄀㔀⤀⸀ 䔀☀伀䔀⸀


This issue’s team of pro artists…









PAUL HATTON 3ds Max is a crucial part of many pipelines, so we thought we’d show it some love this month and brought Vladislav on board to reveal his hard-surface philosophy on p26. 3DArtist username N/A Reynante returns this month, full to the brim with his trademark passion for extremely artistic scenes. Learn all about his Blender workflow and how to build stunning low-poly scenes on p40. 3DArtist username reynantem iClone 6 was a hit at SIGGRAPH last year, with its artist-friendly animation pipeline resonating with attendees. Head to p80 to find out how to use it to rig and animate a game character in a day. 3DArtist username N/A

6 We’ve admired Maarten’s creature and character work for quite some time now, and are pleased to welcome him to 3D Artist with his first tutorial. Join him as he sculpts and renders a zombie on p62. 3DArtist username mutte Reza got in touch with us a few months ago to show off another fantastic sculpt that he’d done, and we had to get him in the mag. On p54, discover the secrets to re-creating masterpieces in ZBrush. 3DArtist username lowrez

We gave Damon a slightly different project this time and he nailed it, naturally. Find out how to use ZBrush and Photoshop to embellish your characters with tattoos on p76. 3DArtist username dkwoods We met Lewis during the run-up to BFX 2015 and were blown away by his enthusiasm and knowledge. Head over to p48 for his insight into creating a strong rig for a tropical fish in Maya. 3DArtist username Lewispixs RealFlow is a brilliant tool and is used by a variety of awesome studios for fluid simulations. On p72, Vikrant shows you how to simulate realistic viscous fluids and animate them effectively. 3DArtist username N/A Visualisation expert Paul returns to the pages of 3D Artist this month in the role of critic. Over on p84, he’s tested Twinmotion 2016 to see if the real-time solution holds up or not. 3DArtist username N/A

What’s in the magazine and where

News, reviews & features

The real skill in applying the digital ink is knowing when and where to put your tattoos

10 The Gallery

A hand-picked collection of incredible artwork to inspire you

Damon Woods reveals his expert approach to tattooing Page 77

20 Technique Focus: Self combustion Martin Carlson reveals his approach to dynamic lighting

22 3ds Max Unleashed

Whether you're a new user or an old fan just looking to brush up, these three workflows will enhance your skillset

30 Inside Blur Studio

We speak to the incredible team behind some of the most accomplished cinematics of all time

38 Technique Focus: Departure

Discover Andrey Vozny's approach to hard-surface modelling

70 Technique Focus: Little Tree Frog Étienne Godin divulges how he used masks to create organic textures

82 Subscribe Today!

Save money and never miss an issue by snapping up a subscription

84 Review: Twinmotion 2016

Paul Hatton delivers his verdict on the real-time visualisation software


85 Review: SimLab Composer 6.1.9 Pro Paul Champion takes the rendering solution for a test drive

Rig and animate a game character in one day

SAVE 40% 3ds Max Unleashed 8



Reconstruct a classical sculpture 80 54

Turn to page 82 for details

Inside Blur Studio

Create viscous fluids



If you have enough time, you can even write a short script depicting the story of your render Reynante Martinez on the importance of exploring narrative Page 42

The Pipeline 40 Step by step: Build low-poly environments Reynante Martinez walks you through constructing incredible stylised worlds in Blender

48 Step by step: Rig a tropical fish Lewis Pickston gives motion to an interesting aquatic model

54 Step by step: Reconstruct a classical sculpture

Learn how to emulate the master sculptors of old with this ZBrush workshop from Reza Sedghi

62 Step by step: Sculpt and render a zombie bust Discover the secret to awesome horror characters in Maarten Verhoeven's stunning tutorial

72 Pipeline techniques: Create viscous fluids



• Exclusive 60-day extended Substance Designer trial • iClone 6 Pro & iClone Character Creator trials • Over three hours of 3ds Max arch-vis video tuition • Four CGAxis arch-vis models Turn to page 96 for the complete list of this issue’s free downloads

Visit the 3D Artist online shop at

Sculpt and render a zombie bust


for back issues, books and merchandise

Vikrant Dalal combines RealFlow, 3ds Max and After Effects to achieve a realistic effect

76 Pipeline techniques: The art of tattooing

Damon Woods reveals the best way to apply tattoos to your 3D characters in ZBrush

80 Pipeline techniques: Rig and animate a game character in one day

Master iClone 6 with John C Martin II using the Character Creator trial, downloadable with this issue

The Hub 88 Community news

Humster3D Car Render Challenge winners revealed and Outpost adopts Redshift

90 Industry news

V-Ray for 3ds Max, MODO 902 and Houdini for Unreal Engine

94 Readers’ gallery

Community art showcase 9

Have an image you feel passionate about? Get your artwork featured in these pages

Create your gallery today at

Philipp Ganthaler

Philipp was born in Italy and is now living and working as a 3D artist in Munich Software 3ds Max, ZBrush, KeyShot, Photoshop

Work in progress‌

Nikotino is the manifestation of an addicted person. The aging man with the Venetian mask is seeking satisfaction from nicotine. This personal work shows on the one side the wonderful feeling of addiction, and on the other side the horrible dependency of the man, which fills him with shame and self-contempt Philipp Ganthaler, Nikotino, 2015



With the advent of winter, we thought a tutorial about how to create snow would be great. I was in charge of the promotional renders. I’ve never seen snow in my life, but I hope it looks something like this! Guilherme Henrique da Silva Santos, Snow, 2015

Guilherme Henrique da Silva Santos

Guilherme is a Brazillian self-taught artist and is an art manager for Blender Guru Software Blender, Photoshop

Work in progress‌


Chin Boon Lee A freelance artist, Chin has also been a graphic designer in printing for over six years Software Blender, Cycles, Photoshop

Work in progress…

This project is a late entry for a Weekend Challenge. After I failed to meet the deadline, I reconsidered the title and backstory, and merged a scene of ‘Cosmos Laundromat’ with my main idea to finish it

Chin Boon Lee, Cosmo Blender-MACH, 2015


Dan Roarty

3DArtistOnline username: droarty Software Maya, Mudbox, V-Ray, Shave and a Haircut

Work in progress‌

I thought it would be fun to finally create a selfportrait. I tried to use some new techniques and software to create the final version Dan Roarty, Dancouver - Self Portrait, 2016 14

Dušan Vukčevič

Dušan is an award-winning freelance 3D artist, specialising in 3D animations and arch vis Software Cinema 4D, OctaneRender, Photoshop

Alternate render…

Every year I like to design a holiday card. This year I made a Scandinavian-style table decoration scene. My main focus was on the lighting. I wanted to mix the cold winter daylight, with warm light from the lamp and the candles. This effect gives a pleasant mood to the image

Dušan Vukčevič, Holidays, 2015


In depth

Anssi Karppinen

Anssi is 28 years old and is a self-taught 3D generalist with an endless thirst for knowledge Software Blender, ZBrush, Photoshop

Work in progress‌


I wanted to show something with hands. More so, I wanted to capture the rough, gritty feeling after working on something concrete with your own hands Anssi Karppinen, Hands of a Mechanic, 2015


I ended up going for the greasy mechanic theme, because the grease and oil that gather in the wrinkles and the grooves in the hands add nice contrast and they highlight the roughness of the scene. The grease build-up was also interesting to execute Anssi Karppinen, Hands of a Mechanic, 2015


ABOVE I ended up doing a greyscale mask that controls the transition between the skin material and the greasy dirt material. This way I had more control over how much the grease covers the skin by adjusting the contrast of the mask. The mask is heavily based on an ambient occlusion pass.


ABOVE This is a bit of an older model that I originally made to be used with the gloved hands of a soldier. I wanted to include the watch so that there is something more on the forearms to look at besides hair.


ABOVE One of the main aspects creating the mood in this piece was the warm, calm light (best seen in the clay render). The lighting has two main components: the warm, main light source on the right, the early rays of the rising Sun and a much colder light in the background from the working lights in the garage, as well as ambient light coming through the garage doors. I added some subtle dust particles to strengthen the mood further.


ABOVE This classic toolbox design with the clever opening mechanism is so awesome I just had to re-create it in 3D. I also rigged the hinges even though there was no actual need for that. The worn paint in the toolbox material was achieved with Blender’s Pointiness node; the areas near the sharp edges are the most worn and the use of this node saved me the time it would take to manually paint the wear and tear.





Martin Carlson

Incredible 3D artists take us

behind their artwork

LIGHTING Self combustion is a self-initiated project that started out as an experiment. Since Octane is a physically correct renderer, I thought that maybe I could build a ‘projector’ that throws its light at the head model. It worked really well. The flames projected at the model are a film sequence I found on YouTube of pure fire, which also made it possible to animate.


Martin is a visual and audio designer currently working at SNW.SE, a brand and design agency Software OctaneRender, Cinema 4D

Self combustion, 2014





UNLEASHED Discover the power of the modelling and rendering software, and release its full potential with these essential quickfire tutorials


f 3ds Max is your tool of choice, then you’re probably pretty familiar with its features, attributes and quirks. What you’re probably less familiar with is how other people actually use the program – what their process is, what scripts they run, what workarounds they employ. For Simon Bojedai, the beauty of it is that “It’s simple yet powerful at the same time, and has a

great amount of plugins and scripts.” Vladislav Ociacia, who created our wonderful cover, uses 3ds Max for all of his hard-surface modelling. He starts “with primitive low-poly geometry. First I observe the form and shape. I start modelling with a primitive, basic mesh. I [look at the] form (in circles, squares, planes) and only after that can I give it a final look.”

The tools are critical, but it’s being so comfortable in using them as part of your arsenal that you can do all of this with your own methods. This process will then enable you to do your best work possible. Bojedai’s advice is to “Analyse good examples of other artists’ work and try to see why they are so appealing to you or other people.  And don’t be lazy…”



Create characters for videogames

Build high-quality, low-poly characters and assets for videogames and learn how to use scripts for better retopology with Simon Bojedai SIMON BOJEDAI Having worked in the videogames industry for six years, Simon is the perfect person to show us how to create a low-poly character for real-time gaming ( He has used the work of his friend Alexandra Petruk (artstation. com/artist/alexandra_petruk) as his inspiration. ...................................................................................................

03 01

Study the male form Simon used male body references before going to modelling. “I made a simple outline in Photoshop to use as reference planes in the viewport. It really helps in maintaining body proportions all over. To quickly place reference planes I used the 3ds Max plugin imagePlaneMaker!”

Keep on centre “I modelled with a box

and did a very rough figure blocking. My goal is to make a rough figure to use as a base for sculpting in ZBrush. There are many ways to do it (like with DynaMesh modelling in ZBrush) but this one is the most essential to me. It’s convenient to have the Symmetry modifier applied with the Weld seam option turned on and a very small Threshold amount to prevent unnecessary vertex welding. I use this modifier often to save time when using lots of mirrored UVs. To maintain a straight central seam (if you accidently moved it), positioned at 0 by x axis, I added Align X, Y and Z buttons in the quad menu. Then I selected the central symmetry seam or its vertices, then Align X and right-clicked the x position spinner to zero it out.”


Use ZBrush for the main shape “The main goal at this point was to create a finished figure shape ready for wrapping clothing around. Most of the body, except the head and the hands, would be covered with clothing and lose its shape so there was no point in detailing the muscles at all.  My ZBrush workflow is rather simple. Mostly I use Clay brushes to form the main shape, and the Standard and Dam_Standard brushes for smaller details like folds and wrinkles.”

06 02

Line them up “You can make reference planes transparent in the Object Properties dialog. For those who use the Outliner script, here’s another tip to teach you how to force reference planes to remain visible even when a viewport is in Wireframe mode. Put planes on separate layers, right-click on it and in Display settings choose ‘Set All Objects Inherit From Layer’ and Shaded.”



Add more loops “After the proportions

are okay, I added more loops by using the Swift Loop tool and shaped the figure using the PolyShift brush to make it closer to the reference. Overall it’s a very monotonous process of dragging vertices around. Also I quickly defined some face details. This model is very rough but it’s just enough to start sculpting.”

Keep it simple “In 3ds Max I modelled

clothing parts except the ones sitting tight on the figure: the pants, boots, jacket and gloves were done in ZBrush by extracting them from the body. There are many ZBrush artists who can make any piece of armour in this software, but I still tend to do most of my hard surfaces in 3ds Max. I used the OpenSubdiv modifier with CreaseSets to make all of the pieces smooth, with sharp and pointy corners where it was needed. I did this by picking points and edges that should be creased and by setting the amount of creasing. This way you won’t need to make double or triple edges for the sharp edges like you would with TurboSmooth.”


Make your folds finite “Continue to add details to existing meshes and add new ones using Extract by Mask. The only thing you should be aware of is creating a double-sided mesh while extracting. A double-sided mesh means double the polygons, and every time you subdivide it doubles again. Folds were mostly done using a Standard brush with a soft alpha. It’s always good to work on a new layer and store a morph target before detailing. This way you’re able to revert your changes using a Morph brush if something goes wrong. But polishing your mesh could be an endless task so I just made him good enough to proceed with retopology and texturing.”

Topology for soft surfaces

Julio Velazquez ( has done lots of soft-surface modelling recently, but if he has to tackle a futuristic car, for instance, he focuses on the basic geometry to make the “form general. This allows me to get a sense of proportion and the scale they have”.


Top topology “3ds Max has a very good retopology toolset, which is actually enough for most


Bake clean normals “First I unwrapped

tasks. I used a nice script called Wrapit, which provides dynamic sticking of the low-poly mesh to the high poly, and it works not only with the Move Conform brush but with the standard Move tool too. Combined with Extend and Step Build, it boosts the work speed. I ended up with about 10K polygons for this character and I have to say that I didn’t try to be very optimal.”

every part separately. It’s easier to work with a couple of shells rather than with a whole mess of UVs intersecting each other. To bake cleaner normals I split all hard edges (or edges between two smoothing groups if you want) and spread thm around a bit to prevent overlapping while baking. If the details should be symmetrical and need to have overlapped UVs to save texture space, then I will delete half and unwrap only one half (symmetry modifier is added in the end). After all the details are unwrapped I select them all, apply the Unwrap modifier and pack everything. I select all of the symmetrical parts and add a Symmetry modifier. Also I would add another Unwrap modifier and shift overlapped parts to another tile.”


Ready for action We will finish off with

some texture baking in Substance Painter, using “hi-poly objects and their low-retopologised versions without intersections”.



Hard-surface strategies

Discover how to create futuristic models, understand hard surfaces and work with details for a polished render with Vladislav Ociacia VLADISLAV OCIACIA As a concept modeller, Ociacia’s (ociacia.artstation. com) futuristic characters and environments are largely based around hard-surface modelling. Here he divulges how he utilised this integral part of the 3D pipeline for his Robotic Panther. His workflow starts with a basic mesh, adds details and finishes with chamfers and design elements.


Polygons and imperfections The third

step – once the form has been accepted – sees Ociacia embrace the detail of his work. He says, “When the form is accepted, I add final touches: dents, cuts, holes and so on. I add polygons and use MeshSmooth.”


Shell on The third stage of Ociacia’s

process is, of course, a long one and this image shows “details, a smooth mesh and how the work leads to the final stage. Here you can see how I work on the details, how the leg works with and without shell. At this stage I could play with different designs of shells,” he adds.


Start with a sketch Although building a model as detailed as this panther is a long process, Ociacia breaks the whole thing down into three basic steps. The first concerns planning. “I start by sketching the future model right in 3ds Max with basic primitives (circles, boxes, cylinders and so on). It helps me to sculpt a visible shape and the figure. When the form is ready, I can experiment with the positioning and the size of elements. When I am given freedom [to use] my imagination (no strict references), I love to improvise.” But, he adds, a better start “will be to start [the modelling process] from sketching a model by hand on paper or in Photoshop. Just draw elementary shapes in black and white, and experiment with the form to find one you need.” He would also advise people to find references, “not of other work, but objects from real life (motorcycle, motors, pipes and so on).”


Master your mesh The time that goes into creating a mesh is key, and here “you can see the same process of creating a base mesh, then adding elements and shells on the front paws and head. This process is similar to Step 4: you can customise and experiment with shell designs,” he notes.

06 02

Keep it simple “After I am satisfied with

form,” explains Ociacia, he then develops it so that he can deliver a “more comprehensive, understandable visual”. He makes sure to add “as few polygons, as possible so [that if a client] has some comments, it would not take much time to do the revisions.”


Bring it all together The

phases of Ociacia’s work demonstrate just how much skill is involved. He says: “Creating basic primitives, in low poly, is the most important part, [followed by] adding polygons to improve the visuals and then working on the details to finalise the image.”

I start by sketching the future model right in 3ds Max with basic primitives – It helps me to sculpt a visible shape and the figure 27


Animate with deformers

Utilise deformation modifiers, a powerful tool for animators and modellers, with Rick Walker


RICK WALKER Capcom, Rockstar, Sega, Atari and Nintendo are just a few of the big companies that Rick Walker ( has worked with. He regularly uses 3ds Max deformers in his work, and reveals here how useful they can be – as long as you keep your objects and your controllers straight. ...................................................................................................

Tie your fates together Of course,

adjusting these amounts does nothing yet, as they aren’t connected to the object. So, open Parameters, and you’ll find two columns. “In the right-hand column you will find Objects. This shows all of the scene objects. Pressing the plus button will open up that Objects attributes, so open up the ‘animated object’ and you will see the three modifiers you applied to the object. Press the plus button on the bend modifier and you will see that the Angle: Float Wire is highlighted. Select this.”


Mirror your models Your first step should be to create the object that you want to animate (call it something like ‘animated object’), and “then add a couple of deformation modifiers to it in the stack, for example: twist, bend and stretch,” says Walker. “Next, create a dummy object. This will act as the animation controller for the object, so call it ‘Controller’.”


Prepare the controls “With the Controller object selected, open the parameter editor (under the Animation dropdown) and in the UI type, under spinner, change the name to ‘twist control’ then press Add. Do the same for ‘bend control’ and ‘stretch control’. You will see that they have been added to the Controller.”


Make a connection “In the left-hand column, scroll down to the objects and select the controller. Press the plus button and you will see the three controller names you made. Select the bend control, press the bottom arrow in the middle of the wire parameters dialog and then press the Connect button – this will connect the controller to the animated object. Do the same for twist control and stretch control. Finally, close the wire parameters box and in your main scene click back onto your controller dummy object – you will notice that adjusting the custom attributes now alters the shape of the animated object. You can create multiple instances of the animated object and the controller will affect all instances.”

Make 3D text with deformers

When using deformers to create 3D text, Walker notes that “you should add more steps to the text interpolation to make the effects of the modifiers appear smoother. Also, use a Bevel modifier rather than Extrude on the text – the reason for this is that in the parameters rollout for Bevel there is the option to change the cap type from Morph to Grid. Change it to Grid and you will notice the capped faces are now smooth rather than showing any obvious iterations when deformers are applied to it.”



Image adjustments Alternatively, deformation modifiers can be used to make “final adjustments to existing shapes”. As Walker explains: “I simply grouped the objects and added a 2x2 FFD deformation box and adjusted the control points to get the shape slightly more curved than I had originally made.”




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We speak to the passionate and talented team behind some of the most impressive VFX work of the last 20 years


hink back to the best game cinematics and trailers you’ve watched in the last 20 years and there’s a good chance many of them were made by Blur Studio. The Culver City-based facility is behind the mind-blowing imagery seen in numerous spots for games ranging from the Halo franchise to The Elder Scrolls Online. Remember the rapid-fire, black ooze-infused main titles for David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? That was Blur. How about the spectacular, nearly all-CG Dark Elves battle prologue in Thor: The Dark World ? Blur, too. There’s a reason artists and clients alike are clamouring to collaborate with the studio. When director Tim Miller and visual effects supervisor David Stinnett founded Blur Studio in 1995, they set out to help tell great stories with the power of CG and 3D technologies. Game cinematics and trailers soon become the


company’s specialty, but Blur has also produced a wealth of live-action pieces, feature-film visual effects, commercials, ride films, concept development, motion graphics, title treatments, virtual production and animated shorts over that period. Miller even garnered an Oscar nomination in 2005 with Blur’s CG short about a carrotmunching gopher called ‘Gopher Broke’. Audiences will soon be seeing more of Blur and Miller’s work with the release of Deadpool in 2016, a film version of the subversive Marvel comic. Miller, a self-confessed comic book aficionado, is directing Deadpool, which was greenlit after positive reaction of visual effects test footage, crafted by Blur, was leaked online. Deadpool is a far cry from the animated ‘medical’ films Miller was making fresh out of school using an early graphics computer called the Dubner 20k. He went on to work at a larger



Dishonored 2 was announced at E3 2015 via a special trailer made by Blur

The room for growth is one of the most rewarding aspects

Dave Wilson, creative director

visual effects facility in Los Angeles in the mid-Nineties, but around that time lower-cost personal computers were soon capable of producing computer graphics to the same level as what were traditionally high-end, expensive machines. “It just became suddenly possible to start your own company without millions and millions of investment dollars,” says Miller. And so Blur was born, quickly finding its feet as an artist-centric production company. But just how the studio has managed to continually churn out such ground-breaking and engaging content since 1995 is no accident. Instead, the studio’s founders deliberately sought to disrupt the usual service-delivery model in visual effects and animation, in several ways. First, the founders craved only wish-list projects, ones that had more interesting stories to tell and were more satisfying to work on. “I really just wanted to do cool work,” declares Miller. “I wanted to work on things that I cared about.” This ‘cool work’ has the added benefit of motivating skilled artists at the facility. “We get exciting work that motivates the artists and engages them, and invests them creatively in the project,” says visual effects and CG supervisor/ director Kevin Margo, who’s been at Blur for more than a decade. “You know you’re going to get something so much better because the artists are invested in it. They’re focused. They’re energised.” Having an open-plan office space – complete with a killer book collection – doesn’t hurt the working environment, either. At Blur, senior staff and junior artists all sit together. “I still remember when I came down for my interview 12 or 13 years ago, Tim’s desk was right in the middle of everybody,” recalls Blur head CG supervisor Jerome Denjean. “I came from a company where the CEO had a special elevator to go to his office. To go from that to a company where the owner is in the middle with everybody – he knows exactly what’s going on at all times. That makes it a really special place. I still feel it after all these years, Tim’s still there in the middle.” Blur’s studio space can certainly be a hive of intense activity – employee numbers hover around 100 depending on what projects are on at the time. But it can also be the location of much


Directed by Dave Wilson, the Dishonored 2 short is three minutes long


We take a look at some of Blur’s incredible milestones


Tim Miller, Duane Powell, and David Sinnett create Blur Studio. It is housed in a 900 sq ft former surfboard shop in Venice, CA.

GOING BEYOND THE UNCANNY VALLEY Blur’s newest approach to facial animation helped deliver a digital Angela Bassett For the recent ‘White Masks’ trailer for first-person shooter Rainbow Six Siege, Blur continued the trend of Hollywood actors taking on key roles in games by crafting a realistic CG performance by Angela Bassett. Following trademark collaborative style, Blur director Kevin Margo worked with Ubisoft to design a story and then tackled the re-creation of Bassett’s likeness. That process started off with a Light Stage scan of the actress, which then goes on to produce a high-resolution 3D mesh. “The Light Stage looks like this large geodesic dome skeletal structure that has hundreds of lights and cameras all around it,” explains Margo. “Angela stands in the centre, holds really still and they take hundreds of photos.” Blur relied on Dimensional Imaging’s DI4D scanning face rig worn by the actress – essentially a helmet-mounted camera – to capture her facial performance as she delivered lines. “DI4D involves shooting RGB video footage from various angles and then processing it to generate a mesh,” states Margo. “For that mesh we use a driver on top of the Light Stage scan we had done earlier. So we have a hi-res facial performance driving a hi-res facial scan.” Artists that were working in 3ds Max and Softimage then dealt with details that needed fine-tuning, such as the eyes and the lips, before rendering a CG Bassett in V-Ray. Margo tells: “It was a great opportunity to really walk through the process of replicating a live actor’s performance and translate that into as high fidelity [CG] as possible.”

Set for release in 2016, Wilson also directed Mafia III ‘s worldwide reveal trailer

This White Masks image was unveiled in the Rainbow Six Siege trailer

Blur also worked on the opening credits of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Jennifer Miller creates the graphics department at Blur. Blur Studio remains in Venice, CA, but moves to a 4,000 sq ft space on Abbot Kinney Bl.


Dave Wilson, Kevin Margo, and Jeff Fowler join Blur and later become the primary animation directors alongside Tim Miller. Blur moves to a 19,500 sq ft building.


Blur’s short film ‘Rockfish’ earns numerous awards and is shortlisted for a Best Animated Short Film Oscar.



We hire people and treat them like adults instead of resources Tim Miller, co-founder

DIRECTOR’S PATH Co-founder Tim Miller on the philosophy behind Blur, hiring great artists and directing Deadpool 3DArtist: You set up Blur 20 years ago now – what were the core principles you had in mind when you started? Miller: Imagine yourself as a 30-year-old nerd. Usually people who start companies – they do it because they want to make money, or things like that. I didn’t really care that much about money. I wanted the ability to choose what I wanted to work on.

For The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Blur used myriad liquid viscosities

Blur’s focus for Tom Clancy’s The Division’s trailer was an emotive time lapse

3DArtist: How do you encourage your artists and the staff that you employ to grow under the Blur moniker? Miller: You first and foremost have to hire really great people who can be trusted in doing good work, and then it’s not that hard. You also try and treat people like adults instead of a resource to be managed. 3DArtist: What has the Deadpool experience and project been like for you as a new feature film director? Miller: I make no bones about telling people I didn’t know what I was doing. So on my first day on set I said, “Listen, I’ve never directed a feature before, I’m not a live action guy, I’m more of an animator/VFX guy. Please help me, if you see me doing something stupid, please stop me. If you see a better way to do something, please let me know.” I want to learn and I’m not afraid to make mistakes, but I didn’t want the film to suffer. 3DArtist: Did you get a hero’s welcome at Blur Studio when you came back from working on and directing Deadpool? Miller: No, it was like, ‘Hey, Tim.’ I’m not special. It takes a village, man. I didn’t want a parade.




‘Gopher Broke’ is Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Short Film in addition to winning awards at various film festivals.

Blur Studio work dominates the prestigious SIGGRAPH conference with four animated pieces in the Animation Theater’s Juried Show including ‘A Gentlemen’s Duel’, ‘Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Intro’, ‘Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning’, and ‘Transformers: The Game’. ‘Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning’ emerges as the winner.


Blur’s Simpsons Ride film for Universal Studios debuts in Orlando and Hollywood. It is named the ‘Best New Attraction of 2008’ by Theme Park Insider.

A lot of clients just come to us to ask for our expertise

Jerome Denjean, head CG supervisor

Particles are just one part of the Siege trailer. Read a shot breakdown on the next page

Mafia III was also shown at E3 2015 via a specially made trailer by Blur

From fire to organic surfaces, Blur’s sequence for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a spectacle



Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 2 are among the Top 10 videos at 2009’s E3.

Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 2 continue to earn awards as well as dominating the SIGGRAPH Conference once again alongside Brink, BioShock 2, Dante’s Inferno: Hell Awaits, and Goldfish: In The Dark in the Animation Theater’s Juried Show. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 earns Best E3 Trailer award from Game Spy and Game Trailer. Goldfish: In The Dark also takes Best Animated Commercial at The Annie Awards.


Blur Studio’s Special Venue division earns Best 3D Projection PALME Award for Ferrari World: Speed of Magic ride film. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 continues to garner attention with an Outstanding Visual Effects in a Video Game Trailer nomination from the Visual Effects Society Awards.

frivolity, such as when the game-loving artists cool their heels with a post-lunch ‘Quake Break’. “It’s 45 minutes of cursing at each other,” jokes Margo, “where lots of friendships are won and lost.” Perhaps the most deliberate technique Blur has adopted in setting itself apart from other studios is its push for a principal role in the creative process. Its directors engage with agencies and clients as filmmakers. “It’s a real creative collaboration with the client,” notes Denjean. “We’ve been doing game cinematics for so long that a lot of clients just come to us to ask us our expertise in the matter. It’s a real partnership.” The effect has been that game studios and other clients directly approach Blur to seek extensions to the stories inside their own games, via cinematics and trailers. Blur has a unique relationship, in particular, with publishers such as Microsoft and its developer 343 Industries, from the Halo franchise. The studio created 53 minutes of cinematics for Halo: The Master Chief Collection, for example. “Microsoft are fabulous,” says creative director Dave Wilson, another Blur veteran. “They don’t consider us a vendor, they consider us a partner in the creative process. They realise there are values that we can bring to the table and we’re more than happy to help out.” Miller suggests that the employees at Blur are also key parts in this collaborative process. In fact, the artists are regularly encouraged to speak out about what they think might work better in a particular shot or sequence. “Nothing makes me happier,” comments Miller, “than me saying, ‘I want something like this’ and then leaving an artist alone and having them come back and say, ‘Well, what you asked for was kind of stupid so I changed it,’ and it’s much better than what I wanted. If you have an atmosphere that allows people to do that, instead of just doing what they’re told, I think people appreciate it and do better work.” “That was exciting to me from the outset,” adds Wilson. “That room for growth and ideas and for encouraging people to push not only themselves but the project we’re doing is one of the most rewarding aspects of working here.” Of course, none of Blur’s work would make its way out of the studio without a sturdy pipeline.



We get exciting work that motivates the artists and engages them

Kevin Margo, visual effects and CG supervisor/director

But even then, as Margo describes, Blur keeps its pipeline and production ‘to a bare minimum’. “We try and make it about the artists,” he says, “and have logical interfaces between the different artists’ tasks.” The studio’s tools centre around ZBrush for modelling and MARI for texturing work, with additional modelling, shading and lighting handled in 3ds Max, Softimage XSI and increasingly Maya for rigging and animation. Houdini and FumeFX are used for effects, while V-Ray is used for rendering and the compositing takes place in Fusion and NUKE. Noticeably, these are mostly off-the-shelf software solutions, the aim being to worry less about the pipeline and more about the artistry. It also means Blur can bring new artists in and get them up to speed fairly quickly. “We’ve kept it

fairly lean,” admits Denjean. “If you know Max or XSI you’ll be able to fit right in fairly quickly. I think what has kept us successful in this building is just the talent of the people and not the software.” One area in which Blur has been pushing the technological envelope is performance capture, especially facial capture and animation. It recently partnered with Scottish firm Dimensional Imaging, whose markerless high-fidelity DI4D facial capture system helped realise the astonishingly vivid CG humans in a trailer for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and the E3 2015 reveal trailer for 2K Games’ Mafia III. “It’s opened the door to do more intimate character-driven pieces where we’re not just blowing everything up,” says Wilson, who directed the Mafia III trailer. “We could just focus on what really makes stories great and that’s character.” Tools in the visual effects and animation world change regularly, and indeed Blur has adapted its own facial animation pipeline to suit several times (the DI4D process is the latest incarnation). Invariably, the studio has also been at the forefront of is the change and convergence between film and games. “There was a gap between games and film a few years ago that isn’t there anymore,” argues Wilson. “The stories they’re telling now are very similar. They’re as complex, moving and emotional as each other.” Hopefully that might just mean another 20 years of Blur’s signature storytelling to enjoy.

Rainbow Six Siege shot breakdown Brian Alvarez, lead effects artist at Blur, goes through the key steps in building a shot


Get information First review existing animation, storyboards, reference, as well as expectations and deadlines.


Make fragments Once the molecule

animation was approved, I chose RayFire for pre-fragmenting the geometry.

Tom Clancy’s The Division cinematic is an original journey concept


Build up the scene Fragments were brought into Thinking Particles for simulation, debris and background populating.




Blur’s title sequence for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earns numerous awards, including D&AD’s coveted Yellow Pencil Award for Best Cinema Title Sequence.


Elder Scrolls: The Alliances, Dark Souls 2, and PlanetSide 2: Death is no Excuse shine at SIGGRAPH LA and Asia. Tim Miller’s Deadpool film is green-lit by 20th Century Fox. Blur moves to Culver City, CA.

Batman Arkham Knight is nominated for a CG Award, Best CG Videogame Promotion. The Deadpool trailer causes a sensation at San Diego’s Comic Con. Blur’s trailer ‘Sacrifice’, made for Star Wars: The Old Republic, wins IGN’s best trailer of E3 award.


Emit smoke with FumeFX Field3D files were then cached and loaded into VRayVolumeGrid, and then rendered.


Composite Finally, the compositing and colour grading processes were then completed in Fusion.


behind their artwork

MODELLING The main thing was to figure out the overall design, which covers all the elements in the scene. I started modelling a set of assets using mostly Booleans. The reason for that is because it’s faster than poly modelling and since this is not an actual production model, I didn’t have to end up with clean topology.

Incredible 3D artists take us

Departure, 2015

Software 3ds Max, Corona Renderer Alpha, Photoshop Andrey is a freelance concept artist focusing on environments and hard surface design

Andrey Vozny



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

All tutorial files can be downloaded from:


Build low-poly environments

Find out how to design polygonal artwork with as few elements as possible to create a vivid and strong impact


n order to achieve a polygonal environment render, there are several crucial steps that needs to be taken, and this Blender tutorial will teach you some of these. You will be guided through the entire process – from blocking the initial phase of the scene to the final compositing of the image. You’ll also get a glimpse of Blender’s powerful modifier system, particularly the Decimate modifier which is often

overlooked. The most difficult aspect of this, though, is the composition planning prior to actually working in the scene, so just keep that in mind when creating your own. By the end of the tutorial, you will be able to create stunning environments that have that interesting polygonal look, with some bonus tips on how to animate the ocean while keeping the objects afloat.

The most difficult aspect of this, though, is the composition planning prior to actually working in the scene 41


01 REYNANTE M MARTINEZ Consequence, 2015 Software Blender, Cycles

Learn how to

• Easily convert existing models into low-poly objects • Create an animated ocean in a very efficient way through the use of modifiers • Generate a Mist effect in post-production with Blender’s node system • Parent objects to mimic the ocean’s animation • Apply post-processing effects by making use of Blender’s compositing nodes


This piece addresses one of the most serious topics that we are currently experiencing – global warming, and how it affects our planet in general through the actions we perform on a day-to-day basis.


Rough out the scene Now that you have a clear idea of the story and sufficient references, it’s time to dive in to Blender and start blocking out the main element of the scene. The easiest way to do this is to add Mesh Primitives – in this case, we’ll add a Grid (Add>Mesh>Grid) and set the amount of subdivisions on the pop-up field. Next we will modify the object in Edit Mode using the Proportional Editing tool, grabbing vertices and pulling them along the z axis to create a blocked landscape that you’ll be working on.



from • Tutorial screenshots


Create the main island Using the rough model

that we created in Step 2, we’ll add a Displace modifier to the object. You can use the standard Cloud textures to modify the appearance of your displacement however you want to. Furthermore, assigning this effect to only affect certain Vertex Groups would also work if you wanted to isolate certain parts of the mesh.


Create the smaller islands Just like how we

created the main island in Step 3, we’ll utilise the same mesh modelling techniques to create the smaller islands. Better yet, duplicate the main island and modify the appearance accordingly to save time.




important ones to consider. This is the part where you gather your ideas and the elements that comprise it. You will also visualise at this stage what theme your render will accomplish and revolve around. However, don’t limit your ideas and just let them flow freely, jotting them down as you go. If you have enough time, you can even write a short script depicting the story of your render – this will then be a solid base for your entire creation process.



Build the story This step is probably one of the most




Generate the ocean To add the huge body of water to your scene, simply add a Grid (Add>Mesh>Grid), set the Radius to a large amount to cover the entire scene, and set the X and Y subdivisions to 200. Proceed to the Modifiers panel and add an Ocean modifier with the Geometry setting set to Displace. The most important settings here are the Resolution, Scale and Size – play around with them until you find the most suitable appearance for your scene.


Model the bears To create the basic shape of the

polar bears, which have a vital role in the story of the scene, start off with a Circle mesh. Then extrude the edges of the circle to create the body and the limbs, and finally do a couple of extrusions to complete the head.


Use the Decimate modifier This is the step that will give that low-poly look to the objects in your scene. Select the bear and proceed to the Modifiers. Add a Decimate modifier, choose the Collapse option and decrease the Ratio value to a desired amount. You’ll notice that the poly count of the mesh gets relatively lower, giving it a resulting triangulated, polygonal appearance. Do the same thing for the main island and the surrounding islands.

08 06

Animate the ocean With the Grid (ocean) object selected, proceed to the Modifiers panel and access the Time setting. Depending on the length of your animation, you simply have to insert a keyframe on the start and end frames of your animation by hovering your cursor on the Time value and pressing I. Take note, though, that it’s best to set the Interpolation mode under the Graph Editor to be a Vector, so that there’s no animation easing. 08


Make it easy to understand

Developing a great story that results in an appealing render is no easy task, but one of the primary aspects of this creation process that you must take note of is that it should be easy to understand and to relate to. Once you have nailed this, the rest will come naturally. Ask for your friend or your partner’s opinion on what they think of your story and sketch for a fresh perspective on things.




Set up the camera With the camera now placed in


front of our subject, add an Empty and assign it as the Camera’s Depth of Field object then set an appropriate amount for the Aperture Size. Setting the aperture size too high will result in a shallow depth of field which might make the render look quite minute. In this case, putting in a value of 0.01 will work just fine.


Add the background image The background render plays a vital role in adding depth and emotion to the rendered image. You can go ahead and utilise Blender’s array of tools to manually create a background scene, but for simplicity purposes, we’ll add a photo image via File>Import>Images as Planes. This will automatically import a Plane into your scene, which you can then position behind the subject and along the camera’s field of vision, creating the illusion of environment.


Add the materials The primary material that is worth taking notice of in this scene is the ice, which is basically a mixture of Diffuse and subsurface scattering shaders. At the time of writing, the Experimental render feature needs to be selected when using Subsurface Scattering in Blender. The Scale setting of the SSS node determines how deep the light dispersion effect is, so consider this when using this shader relative to the size of your object.

Use the Bevel modifier

To further add depth to the objects in our scene, add a Bevel modifier, which eliminates that very sharp-edged look on the surfaces. This will also enable light to play well on the surface, casting specular reflections. 11






Lighting The illumination setup of the scene is pretty simple and most of the effect comes from the fact that the ice has subsurface properties. Two Sun Lamps are used to light the entire scene, one blue-ish Lamp from the left and a white one on the right. The blue light is used to add a rim effect and scale to the entire scene, while the white lighting is used to emphasise the shape of the objects.


Add snow particles Add a huge cube in your scene


Add mist effects To further emphasise the cold

and add a Particle System, which will then act as the environment snow emitter. However, by default, these particles aren’t rendered in Blender, so add an Icosphere and move it to an inactive layer of the scene and use it as the Dupli object of the Particle system.


environment, adding fog or mist is a huge plus. Under the Render Layer properties, make sure that the Mist Pass has been checked. To tweak the Mist Settings, go to the World Settings. This will then become accessible through the Compositing nodes as a Mist output, which you have the full freedom to modify however you wish. In most cases, combining this pass with the base render through a Mix node set to Add will do the trick.

Emotion with lighting

It is worth noting that using variations in colours when lighting your scene can play a huge role in adding emotion to your renders. Carefully base your schemes on effective colour theories depending on the story you’re trying to portray. In this case, the predominant use of blue is signifying a cold and dry place and thus depicting lifelessness.




Colour grading This step basically deals with colour modifications of the final render to make it more visually appealing and to add the artist’s personal touch and tones. Using Blender’s Compositor, most of the work is done by adding RGB Curves nodes and mixing the results via a Mix node, utilising the variety of blending options available. In this case, we added a slight tint of red to the render to balance the blues with the red hues.

Reynante M Martinez

Reynante is a self-taught artist and has been a Blender user for 11 years. He specialises in visual storytelling and lighting, with industry experiences that include academic teaching, art direction for short films as well as architectural visualisation.



Lens effects This step is entirely optional. However, if we want to mimic real camera lenses, which usually has a relative degree of distortion, then adding this effect will improve believability despite the existing polygonal look of the render. Most of the effect comes from the Lens Distortion node in Blender’s Compositor, coupled with the Ellipse Mask node to create a vignetting effect. Combined, all these create a final render that is visually attractive and emotionally impactful. Sheep Happens, Blender, Cycles (2015)



Film emulation As with most steps involving compositing, it all comes down to adding that additional ‘oomph’ to sell the final image and to convince your viewers further. Film emulation is an effect that can trick your viewers’ eyes. In Blender, access this by going to Scene>Color Management and tweaking Render options (View & Look) to give your final render an appearance as though it was shot by real cameras, by adding some colour casts and imperfections.

My homage to the Gooseberry Project and inspired by my faint memories of childhood.

Using render passes

For further control of the render elements, you can use Blender’s render passes to separate aspects of the scene and composite them later on as one piece. Using this method can be time-consuming but it gives you the control over the various layers of the image.

Freedom, Blender, Cycles (2014) Visually inspired by my garden; emotionally, by the guilt-stricken reality of how we humans domesticate our biological siblings, and by the subjective and often beguiling concept of freedom itself.


Perfection, Blender, Cycles, (2014)

Inspired by the great thinkers of all time, by the hardworking individuals, and by the art of creating itself.


All tutorial files can be downloaded from:



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Rig a tropical fish

LEWIS PICKSTON Tropical School, 2015 Software Maya

Learn how to

• Make procedural, key-frame-free animation using deformers • Set up dynamic and real-time simulations • Drive joints by making use of IK Spline handles • Produce realistic volume preservation using weight-blended skinning • Add multiple layers of control • Structure your rig clearly


enerally speaking, rigging is a part of the pipeline that is concerned with a great deal of efficiency and quality of movement, controls and deformations. With this in mind, this tutorial aims to reveal some hidden gems in terms of procedural, (almost) key-frame-free animation in Maya, as well as reveal some of the less talked about solutions to fairly common rigging issues. We’ll start by tackling some rigging basics such as joint placement and IK handles before heading over to driving joints with dynamic simulations and native Maya deformers, and tying it all up with well-thought-out controls and skinning. By the end of the tutorial we should have a fully rigged tropical fish, as well as an understanding of where similar practices can be used in different rigging situations.




The project itself is based on a specific fish in particular, the Moorish idol, and the challenges that its morphology poses. Reference for the project was gathered from pre-existing images and films


Place the core joints We’ll start off by placing the


joints, which will drive the greatest amounts of motion in our rig. In the case of the spine, place eight evenly spaced joints along the centre of the fish, starting underneath the eye and extending all the way to the end of the caudal fin. We’ll be naming all of the joints we create in this tutorial with a consistent convention, so name the first joint in the spine chain as ‘spineA_jnt’ and work your way down to ‘spineH_jnt’. Next place the eight joints for the dorsal fin as seen in the image for this step, using an equally straightforward naming convention, and parent the dorsal chain under ‘spineC_jnt’.




from • Tutorial screenshots • Maya files • Video tutorial



Place secondary joints Next we’ll go about placing the joints for the other fins and eyes. First place two joints for the left pectoral fin named ‘l_pecFin_jnt’ and ‘l_ pecFinEnd_jnt’, making sure to rotate the first joint in the x axis so that its orientation matches that of the fin itself. Next, freeze transformations on this joint and mirror it across y and z, searching for ‘l_’ and replacing with ‘r_’. Parent both joints to spineB_jnt and follow the same process for pelvic fins. Eye joints should also be placed in the dead centre of the eyeballs and parented under spineA_jnt.


The root joint Now we have a final joint to add in order to eliminate the flipping inherent in the IK Spline solvers. Since IK Solvers can flip when they themselves are rotated in space, we need a parent joint above or some spine joints so that the Solvers stay relative to their local space. We’ll place this in the middle of the fish and parent everything else underneath it, so that the whole rig will be able to be positioned later on using the centre of gravity control.

We need a parent joint above or some spine joints so that the Solvers stay relative to their local space 49



Driving the auto-swim attribute

The auto-swim attribute can obviously be keyed by an animator, but in the case of flocking multiple fish in a simulation or animating the fish along curves, this attribute can also be driven by any comparative calculation. A native Maya option is the frameCache node, which you can use to store values with over time. This will allow you to then calculate the distance travelled between each frame, but these are only generally useful after hand animation or simulation, as they only cache once. When animating along curves, the curve 0-1 can be plugged into the auto-swim attribute and the frequency value used to scale the amount of swimming at any given point. 04



IK Spline for the spine In order to get this procedural animation for the fish, we need to set up an IK Handle, which will drive joint movement using a deformable object. To do this, select the IK Handle tool and select the start and end spine joints. Next, unparent the generated ‘curve1’ from the joint structure, rename it ‘spine_CV’ and use the Rebuild Curve tool to add more CVs – about ten will do. We do this in order to have a greater deformation fidelity for our curve, and thus a smoother swimming animation in the final product.


Deformer setup Working together with the IK

Handle, we’ll be creating a sine deformer which will drive the majority of the animation on the fish. Start by selecting the spine_CV, creating the deformer and then snapping it to the last joint. Open the sine1 input, set the low bound to -2, the high to 0 and the dropoff to 1. Rotate the deformer in the x axis so that its end aligns with spineA_jnt. At this point, playing around with offset, amplitude and wavelength controls in the deformer should animate the spine and give an idea about the sort of movement we’re going for.



Dynamics setup Now, with the spine joints driven by our sine deformer, we can use Maya’s nHair to cheaply and physically drive an accurate movement of the dorsal fin in the water. To do this, we first have to repeat the IK setup for the dorsal fin by creating an IK Spline between joints A and H. After this, rebuild the generated curve with 20 spans, this will give us more CVs to work with during simulation and a greater quality as a result. Next, select the curve and in Maya’s nHair menu select Make Curve Dynamic.



Configure the nHair The previous

stage should’ve created a few things. Firstly we should have a nucleus, a hairSystem node as well as a hair follicle. Take follicle1 and parent it under spineC_jnt, this will enable the animator to pose the fish without the simulation dragging behind and deforming the mesh. Also set the point lock in the follicle to Base. Next, set the nucleus gravity to 0, and then in the hair system set the values to those shown in the accompanying image. Finally, to drive the joints with the nHair, simply connect the worldspace[0] attribute of the output curve shape to the dorsal_IK inputCurve attribute.


Auto-swim controls Next we’ll create a little control which will allow our animator to key the swimming animation. Using the EP Curve Tool, draw a curve which will be instantly recognisable for the animator, before positioning it on either side of the fish and freezing transformations. Next, we’ll lock and hide all of its channels and add float attributes for amplitude, wavelength and frequency, as well as an auto-swim attribute. Then, in the connections editor connect amplitude and wavelength to their corresponding inputs in the sine1 node. Pipe the auto-swim through a Multiply Divide node in the Node Editor, setting the second value to -1, and plug this into another Multiply Divide node with the first input coming from the frequency attribute. Finally, the result of this should be connected to the offset attribute in sine1.






Create controls for the fins With little elasticity and movement in the pectoral and pelvic fins, basic FK controls will do for the little posing that needs to be achieved. To do this, we can create individual NURBS circles for each fin, group them and then snap the group to the centre of the joint. Following this, we can orient the groups accordingly before orient constraining the joints to them. After creating the controls, parent constrain their offset groups to spineB_jnt so that they move with the spine when it is animated.

Skinning Now, with controls for each joint we can go about skinning the fish itself. First select the torso mesh and all other joints, but not the eye joints, and smooth bind them with weight-blended skinning. After this, smooth skin all other parts to their corresponding eye joint. Now take the fish to an extreme pose using the auto-swim and begin smoothing, adding and removing weights on a joint-by-joint basis to improve the overall form. We will now repeat this process, and also animate ranges of motion for the fish or a basic swim to see whether the deformation looks realistic and retains volume during movement.

All tutorial files can be downloaded from:




Blend Shapes Another tool in our arsenal is Blend


Shapes. In any other rigging scenario we might find a need to use these extensively to fix skinning issues that are unavoidable with our joint setup. But as we’re rigging an animal with simple morphology, we only need three Blend Shapes. One to open and close the mouth, and one to flare each gill. Since these aren’t correctives, copy the skin for each Blend Shape and sculpt them, before applying them as a front-of-chain Blend Shape and connecting them up to controls.


The COG control and globalSRT Finally, to get the

rig to a place where it can be used in the pipeline, we need to create a centre of gravity control and globalSRT. To do this, create a control similar to those used for the fins, except centre the pivot on the root joint. This will be used for positioning and rotation. Next, parent all control offsets underneath, select the spine curve, create a cluster deformer and parent the cluster underneath the COG control. The globalSRT control is a similarly basic control, but is instead used for the overall positioning and scaling of pre-animated assets in the scene. To make this, create another NURBS curve, place it underneath the fish at the origin and parent the COG underneath it. Next, create a joint group with which the joints are placed underneath, and scale constrain it to the globalSRT. 11


Applying the concepts

This is a fairly basic rig but the ideas and methods can be applied to a multitude of rigging situations. For instance a great deal of feather systems are built off of the nHair method, which this tutorial demonstrates, however on a much greater scale with hair and a few joints driving and deforming each individual feather. Similarly, with Maya’s built-in deformation nodes you can address nearly any given procedural animation scenario. For more extreme situations, we can also turn to the Maya API and create our own deformation nodes as plugins.



Expand the rig In its current form, the rig we’ve built would be pretty sufficient for a background asset. In order to make the rig more poseable for the animator, we’d need to add more controls which would enable the exact posing of the fish torso. If you want to delve deeper into the rig, we can tackle this issue by replacing our single cluster with many clusters, controlling a few of the curve vertexes each. Hooking these up to controls will then grant us the ability to pose the fish using our procedural animation and move controls to add detail on top.

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Reconstruct a classical sculpture

REZA SEDGHI Veiled Vestal Virgin, 2015 Software

ZBrush, KeyShot

Learn how to

• Break down the references • Sculpt the head • Sculpt cloth folds and wrinkles • Do likeness sculpting • Use KeyShot lighting and material settings • Render realistic marble


I wanted to reconstruct the Veiled Vestal Virgin. Besides the beauty of the sculpture, it’s a great way to understand folds, anatomy, expressions and more.


hen it comes to classical sculpture, there is nothing more graceful and awe-inspiring than Rafaelle Monti’s bust of the Veiled Vestal Virgin. We’ll be studying and breaking down this reference, sculpting the bust and finally go into a finished realistic render. We will use ZBrush for creating the whole sculpture, from making the base mesh to sculpting the cloth and likeness, and in the end we’ll achieve a realistic render using KeyShot. The target of this tutorial is to capture the beauty of classical sculptures. Studying classical sculptures will improve your sculpting skills. You will learn a lot about anatomy, weight, cloth and folds. As you can see, the statue is veiled by a very thin fabric-like material, something that is reminiscent of silk so that you can see both the face and the folds on it. One of the most challenging parts is to create this cloth look on the face.




Using the references and breakdown The first


thing you need to do is to gather as many references as you can. You will need images with different points of lights and different points of view for understanding the whole proportion, the shapes and simply the whole sculpture. The next thing is to create a triangle from the centre of the mouth to the end of the eyes so you can understand the size and placement of the nose, eyes and mouth if you’re trying to capture a close render of your reference.




from • Tutorial screenshots


Create the basic forms For creating this piece

we’ve decided to sculpt a bust of this sculpture. We’ll use a single sphere to start forming with the Move brush to create the overall shape that we want. First start with the head, make the sphere more like an egg shape and move the back part down to create the neck and the chest. Remember to always check your references from many angles so your basic shape will be more accurate. You can start with ZBrush DynaMesh Spheres in the Lightbox or you can use a sphere first and later turn it into DynaMesh.


Develop the model using DynaMesh To start sculpting, you need to turn on the DynaMesh in the Geometry bar. Start sculpting the basic shapes and forms like the head and the main lines in the cloth folds, using a ClayBuildup or a Clay brush. At this stage, remember to avoid sculpting the details, simply go step by step and you’ll get a better result.

Create a triangle from the centre of the mouth to the end of the eyes so you can understand the size and placement of the nose, eyes and mouth 55



Block the eyes, mouth and nose shapes Using Move and ClayBuildup, block the eyes, mouth and nose landmarks. In the reference breakdown stage,

we’ve mentioned putting a triangle on the face with one point on the centre of the lips and the other two points at the end of each eye. This triangle will help you understand the placement of the eyes, nose and lips when you’re sculpting the face. You can create separate eyeballs for a sharper look. 04




Develop the face We’ll keep developing the face

landmark until we reach the result that we need, the Pinch brush will be useful in this part to sharpen some areas. Classical sculptures have a very idealistic and innocent look so the lips are fuller, the eyebrows are arc shaped and the nose is smoother. Raffaelle Monti was a 19th Century artist but his sculptures had a Renaissance look.



Initial details

Now we have a rough model and we know that everything is right as it should be. We will now start detailing the face and the main shapes on the body. Dam_ Standard, ClayBuildup and Move are the three brushes that we will use here. Avoid the cloth on the face at this stage and develop the face itself. Always go back to your references too.


Add folds Now that


we’ve reached a satisfying level on the face we’ll go for adding the cloth. There are two ways of creating the cloth on the face: you can mask it, extract the parts out of the face, start developing it and at the end merge it with the base mesh, or you can pick your brush and sculpt it on the face. Both of these methods will give you the same result, as the original piece is sculpted in one piece. For better control of your lines you can go in to the Stroke bar and set your LazyRadius to around 30. 08


Detail the folds with a cloth brush By using a Dam_Standard

brush and an edited Standard brush we’ll go for detailing the parts. To create a brush for sculpting folds, select the Standard brush, go to your Brush bar and edit the Depth parameters. Your Brush Imbed should be something around 15. Set the Gravity Strength to a high value – around 50 – and make your Gravity Direction negative (from bottom to top) to get bumpy folds; you can also choose the Direction based on the type of folds you are trying to create. Some folds are affected by heavy gravity, some folds’ directions flow from the top and so on.


Create flowers and leaves You can create the whole statue in one piece, but for a sharper result it’s better to create shapes from separate models. For the flowers and leaves on the head of the statue, we’ll use a thin box and a cylinder, turn the DynaMesh on and then start developing our model. Inflate is a very useful brush here for making bumps. 09

All tutorial files can be downloaded from: 57



Create the base For creating a base, we’ve picked a cylinder, deformed it and put two rings on it. It’s important to create a smooth round-shaped base, the reason being that it might affect the feel of the whole sculpture. You might choose to go with a hard-edged base for a bust with an exaggerated expression.





Clean up the lumpy parts The original sculpture’s face is covered with a one-piece silk, although Raffaelle Monti made some parts of the folds too sharp in order to emphasise more of the cloth so it might look like some parts are separate – remember not to make your model in a way so that the cloth looks divided. Now work with Pinch and Dam_ Standard, and smooth any parts that look lumpy. At this stage we have to clean up every single part of our model to make it clean and sharp.

Finalising the model


Finalise the sculpt After we’ve created the flowers and the base, we’ll add them to our

main model and finalise our sculpture. By finalising we mean sharpening the areas, fixing the lumpiness of the model and preparing it for rendering. We will be using Pinch and Dam_Standard to make our model look sharper. Remember, as we’ve mentioned before, you can set the LazyRadius value higher to get better control, especially in this step where you will need to clean up your model.


This is the part where we finish our model, adding the base and the flowers, sharpening the areas and fixing the lumpy parts. We will check our reference to see if everything is in its place and once we’ve done the cleaning up, we can go for the exporting and rendering parts.


Export the model Now that we have our model ready for render we’ll go for exporting. Based on our goal, we can decimate it and export it straight to a rendering engine, or we can go for retopology if we’re going to texture it or if we need a lower resolution version of it. But here we go for decimating because we’re going to render it in KeyShot. 13

Reza Sedghi

Reza is a 3D artist and digital sculptor from Tehran, Iran. He has been working as a freelancer mainly in character modelling for over five years and he has created several characters for both the videogames industry and for animations. Currently he is working as a digital sculptor for figure companies.

Pieta Reconstruction ZBrush, 3ds Max, V-Ray (2015)

Reconstruction of Pietà, a sculpture that was originally by Michelangelo Buonarroti. This was rendered by my friend Milad Kambari.


Render a realistic statue

For rendering our model we will use the new version of KeyShot. Using a translucent material will help us to create a light passing effect, as we know marble can transmit the light based on the thickness of the stone. This means that on the thinner parts there will be more light passing and, as you may expect, on the thicker parts there’ll be less light passing.


Set up the materials For setting up the materials, we’ll use a KeyShot Marble

Abaddon the Noble Beast ZBrush (2014)

Abaddon was my entry for’s Adrian Smith Massive Art Mythic Warlord challenge, which took the ‘Honourable mention’ title.

material. You should change the material type to Translucent (Advanced) to have a better result. Increase the roughness to make it less shiny; the surface colour and subsurface colours should be close to each other – you can make the subsurface colour brighter but choosing them from a same palette can give a better feeling of translucency.

Garadon the beast ZBrush (2015)

This orc is a creature that is based on the art style of Adrian Smith ( I’m also a big fan of orcs.

All tutorial files can be downloaded from: 59



Lighting setup KeyShot lights can be simple but you need to know what you’re doing. You can set up your lighting in a way that your model looks eyecatching. For this part, we’re using spheres for lights, which you can add using the Edit menu. Three lights should work fine, one as our main light, one as an edge light and one as the fill light and then we can go for the render. 15




Set up our environment As we’re trying to emphasise the sculpture itself, avoid setting up a busy scene as the model will get lost. For environments, the new Conference_Room in the indoor library is brilliant. You can rotate the environment until you get a good lighting result. For the final image, you can change the image of the environment to a back plate or a solid colour to make more room for the statue.

Rendering marble with KeyShot

For creating marble, you can set the translucency high to a value around 10 to get a good result for light passing. With subsurface colours, a very light red can be great too – it all depends, really, on your environment and your lighting setup, but usually the colours of the light-passed parts are the original colour but brighter.



Final render and rendering setup KeyShot renders are very simple. First thing you need to do for getting a better result is to set the lighting setup from basic to full simulation – basic is fine but full simulation gives you a fantastic look. For the camera you can add your camera in the camera bar and lock it so you won’t be worried that it might change in case you want to do further work on your scene or your model. Once we’ve set up everything we will go for the render and create a great image from our model.


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

All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

We prefer to sculpt with polygroups because you can easily work on separate groups when your polycount starts to go up 62

MAARTEN VERHOEVEN Infested, 2015 Software ZBrush, KeyShot, Photoshop

Learn how to

• Sculpt from a base mesh • Design characters • Block basic shapes • Refine details • Use Alphas • Create new geometry • Do a basic FiberMesh creation • Polypaint in ZBrush • Quickly set up materials in KeyShot • Render and complete fast post-production


As an artist I have a fascination for horror-related work. For the actual design I went for a character without a nose to start with, but during creation more elements were added. I love to create characters with a backstory, figuring out where they are living and moving in their own universe.

Sculpt and render a zombie bust

Design a zombie in ZBrush, texture with Polypaint and render it in KeyShot


f you want to create a final colour image or concept piece, such as this zombie bust, then this tutorial will teach you the necessary steps for this workflow. It shows you how to go from a very low-poly base mesh to a high-resolution sculpt. This will give you a step-by-step insight on how to approach sculpting, using the basic tools and Alphas that are available in ZBrush for 99 per cent of the image. We will demonstrate how to work with the different SubTools and create the details that are applied to the zombie. We’ll also explain how to create extra SubTools, use FiberMesh and texture. As you will notice in this workflow we will go over the model from all sides to help us refine everything until the sculpt is done, ready for texturing and rendering. In the last part of the tutorial you’ll see how to set it all up in KeyShot very quickly and create a great looking image. It will give you a good result with out-of-the-box brushes and materials.


Base mesh and polygroups We use a base mesh to start with, why? A good base will help us to sculpt quickly. We know the final image will be a humanoid type figure so this makes up for good time. This is a simple mesh with some polygroups; we prefer to sculpt with polygroups because you can easily work on separate groups when your polycount starts to go up. When you hide parts of your model you won’t use up all of your computer’s memory, which means you will be able to sculpt more smoothly.


Build shapes Let’s start with Symmetry On, then build up shapes with a Clay and Standard brush with an Alpha 38. This is an Alpha that we use throughout the whole sculpt. At this stage you should respect the anatomy of the human body by getting the biggest shapes of the neck muscles in place, creating the collar and cheekbones.


Maximise geometry in subdivisions Stepping

up subdivisions is necessary for you to have enough geometry to work with, but we prefer to maximise what we can get out of the geometry in every subdivision. We feel that this is the best way to keep all your shapes and volumes in control, keeping it all very tight and strong. Working this way also prevents you from adding fine details in the sculpt because it simply isn’t possible to do so at this stage – it’s a bit like an artist trying to sculpt in stone. You should first make sure that all the shapes are in their place and then go into the detail. 03






from • Tutorial screenshots




Detail teeth Detailing the teeth is something that’s


fun and very fast to do. First start working on them with symmetry, refine the gums and the teeth. The best way to do this is to make some different SubTools from them. Working this way you can polish each tooth individually with the hPolish brush – we always use this brush if we want to quickly give something a hard surface look. Later on you will have the chance to break up the perfect smile and give him a gnarly and crooked look.


Adjust shapes The biggest forms on our model are there, but go over everything one last time from all sides. In the next step, we will be breaking up the symmetry so now is a good time to check the neck, ears and eye sockets. An overall strong shape means that there will be a good base to keep working on. Don’t focus on details but on the general proportions of the bust and making parts fit.


Break up the symmetry Now you’ll see how the

symmetry is broken. First go in with the Move Topological brush and open the mouth area. Pulling the bottom lip down and inserting the upper, start adding the details around the mouth. Use a Standard brush and the Inflate brush on a high Z-intensity and a small draw size to add all the small irregularities. Also, try to create all the bigger open gashes around the mouth area giving it all a ripped feel, though accentuating the edges with the Inflate brush. This is also a good time to go over the teeth again, moving them around and chipping off small parts with a Clip brush.

Respect the skull

When sculpting zombies or the undead, try to respect the anatomy of the human body, this will be the only way to create a believable character. Try to give the feeling that there’s a skull and skeleton beneath the muscles and skin. When thinning out or removing parts of the body and face, figure out if this would actually be possible and remember to show what would be revealed. 06





Sculpt by hand

I like to do most of the work by hand and later on use a variety of Alphas to tie them all together in the sculpt, brushing out all the hard lines. An overuse of Alphas often breaks up the surface tension too much and it also starts to feel very generic, as if it’s created by something instead of someone. Try to keep it all as natural and irregular as possible.


Create the tongue The tongue is actually really easy – just mask off an area in the mouth on a low subdivision and use the Extract button under the SubTool palette. Once this is created, you can run ZRemesher over it and start sculpting on it. The shape of the tongue was sculpted with the Clay and the Move Topological brush. The smaller details were added with a standard Alpha and the Displace brush on a spray stroke.



Veins and gore In order to add extra veins and gore

in your sculpt, step back and forth through the different subdivisions while you’re still in the sculpting process. You can add a vein on the third subdivision and step up to the fourth one to smooth it out. Working this way is how we will get the veins to look as if they are actually running under the skin. To achieve higher resolution gore just work closely on the model and retrace your steps on all of the details that you have sculpted before on a lower subdivision. All of this can be done with a Standard brush.


Glass and cuts The glass is created in ShadowBox, and all you have to do is draw up a shape and use a Clip brush to give edges nice and sharp angles. All of the splinters are just copied and pasted over one side of the face. The extra cuts are drawn in, extending how the glass is stuck in the flesh. Once the glass shards are in place work on it again, using the Inflate brush on the edges to spread open wounds and giving it the idea that the wounds have all opened up. 65



Work on microdetails The microdetails are added


on a final overall sculpting run of the face and body. Rework all the small creases with the Standard and Dam_ Standard brush and add the fine wrinkles. Pores are added in two different ways; one is with big Alphas that are dragged in with a Displace brush with the DragRect stroke on, covering bigger parts of the body or face at once. The other way is by using very small Alphas that are being used with the same brushes that we mentioned earlier but with a Spray stroke setting. When you are applying wrinkles and pores, try to follow the contours of the muscles and respect how the skin is stretched out over the bones and flesh.


Create the shirt The shirt is basically created the same

way as the tongue: mask off a part on a low subdivision and extract it with thickness. The ZRemesh is all you need to give it some clean topology. Step up another subdivision and delete the lower ones, drag it all into shape with the Move brush and start cutting holes in it with the ZModeler brush. You can use the ZModeler brush with the QMesh option to create some nice holes in the low-poly mesh. When you cut in all the holes that are needed for your design, go up a couple of subdivisions and start sculpting some wrinkles in the fabric with some clean, long strokes. Finally you can add some details with an Alpha or with surface noise.



Add some mushrooms The mushrooms were something that crept in pretty late in the design. They are created from a 3D cylinder, that was sculpted and then decimated. It was duplicated a couple of times and stacked on his head and neck like they would grow in a tree. Make sure to have them in different sizes, and once they are in place go over the group with the Move brush giving them all a more individual look in shape and design. 12


The eyebrows were created during the texturing phase, I was running some quick test renders during the final texturing and realised my character could use some eyebrows. They were created the same way as the stubble on its head. The only big difference was the length and direction. You can influence the direction of fibres through turning your model and ramping up the gravity slider in the FiberMesh menu. You’ll notice that the direction changes before accepting it as a new SubTool. For the grooming part just use the standard Move brush and you will get a fair way without messing up the hairs to mush. FiberMesh is great; the only thing that you’ll need is a lot of practice to make it look good.




FiberMesh Creating

hair-like strands is something that works well in ZBrush especially when it’s short hair like on this character. Start by masking off the area that you want your hair to be on. Then open the preview tab in the FiberMesh (A) menu. The things that need to be adjusted are the MaxFibers (B), ByMask (C) and Length (D). When you click the tab above the slider of each subpalette, some text will appear and reveal what the slider does. It’s a bit of fiddling around with the slider but you can check your progress under the fast preview setting by clicking Fast Preview. If you like what you see you can also create a new SubTool from the hairs by clicking Accept (F).


Maarten Verhoeven

A digital sculptor living and working in Belgium as a concept and VFX artist, Maarten specialises in work for film, commercials, toys and 3D print. He has a classical art education and a degree in animation for film. He handles different aspects of production, from concept and sculpting to compositing and colour grading.

LUXFER – the fallen one ZBrush, KeyShot, Photoshop (2015)

A portrait study of how I would visualise the fallen commander, Lucifer.

Hellcat ZBrush, KeyShot, Photoshop (2015)

I wanted to create a fast demonic ancient creature and the Hellcat was the result.


Texture with Polypaint First fill the object with a flat base colour and use MatCap skin04 to get a good idea of what you are actually painting. A beginner’s error is to use a nice looking MatCap and paint on it, but the problem that rises is when you switch out shaders in an external program, you will notice that your colours aren’t correct because the nice MatCap also influenced your visualisation of the textures in ZBrush. You can fill the object by picking a base colour, so go to the Colour tab and select Fill Object. Make sure that you are only selecting the Rgb tab otherwise with Mrgb you will also bake your MatCap. If you want to clean up your SubTool of materials and colour info just select the flat colour MatCap and fill it with this. Start painting using the Standard brush with only the Rgb setting turned on and begin with a bigger brush setting and a low Rgb intensity; build up your colours slowly. Apply the bigger colours first and later add some details on all of the parts. The further we work on the paint process, the more that fine details are added – we would suggest using some different standard and custom Alphas with some gentle spray strokes. Try to copy the transparency of the skin in your paint job by subtly adding veins and little freckles. In the final stages of painting you can use some Alphas of handprints and blood splatters to apply in a random order on the figure, just to make it all a bit dirtier.

Gorilla study ZBrush, KeyShot, Photoshop (2015)

I really like to sculpt apes, I have done a few over the last years. I haven’t done a lot of gorillas, for some reason I prefer chimps.





Pose it For posing our


figure we will make use of Transpose Master, just go to the Zplugin and look for SubTool Master. Open up the tab and press TPoseMesh – this function will merge all of our SubTools into one low-resolution mesh. Now use the transpose lines and the masking tools to pose the zombie – for a bust like this it doesn’t have to be very expressive. The placement of the stare of the eyes can really make or break your character’s overall personality. Once you’ve checked the pose from a few angles and with different perspective draw sizes, it’s time to bring back all of the hi-res details by pressing the TPose>SubT button.


Send it to KeyShot All of the SubTools have now


been sculpted, textured and posed, so now it’s time to send everything to KeyShot. In the ZBrush menu go to the Render tab, select External Renderer, activate KeyShot and press the BPR button. If the bridge to KeyShot is installed then all of your visible SubTools will be sent to KeyShot automatically. First in KeyShot, adjust the camera angle and material setting just by dragging and dropping the standard materials from the library (keep in mind to hold the Alt button when dropping the material in this way as you will be able to keep your Polypaint on the shader). The skin gets the skin shader, glass gets glass and everything gets filled with variants of the plastic shader. Try adjusting the Roughness slider to create different variations of materials and wetness. Then choose an HDR environment to light the model, and adjust the gamma and brightness. Depending on the image you could add extra geometry and apply ‘lighter’ materials on it, but not in this case. Load up a backdrop image and ramp up the ray bounces and shadow quality in the render settings. The real-time render engine provides us with good, fast and clean images; you only have to use the normal render engine when creating big images and then render it with a time limit set on.


Working with KeyShot only really involves playing around, and you can achieve instant results with just a few buttons. The best thing about it is that it is fast – you can quickly cycle through different HDR light environments and see how you model reacts to it. The materials that are out of the box work fine for a lot of things. As an artist it’s my favourite ‘fast’ render tool because you can use your high-resolution model and you also won’t lose any details. It’s perfect for stills and for creating concept art. The only downside to KeyShot is that you can lose a lot of time, because of the number of possibilities that can be quickly achieved!



Post-production with Photoshop For the final image, keep it simple and also respect

a lot of the image that we have already created. Just compose the two different material renders that were created for the skin: the dry one (skin shader) and the wet version (plastic shader). Let’s put one of these shaders on top of the other in a new layer and then make use of a mask to paint out the areas that you want to keep dry. Add some noise, sharpen the image a little and finally create a vignette with a fill layer; sometimes a little colour correction can provide us with some extra mood. However, these effects will all depend on the look that you’re creating for your infested dweller.

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TEXTURING I painted everything according to references and didn’t use any photo projection. Doing the sculpt myself gave me the opportunity to create great detailed maps from ZBrush, using masks like Mask By Smoothness and others. I then converted them to Polypaint and blended them in my maps with MARI.

70 Étienne is an 18-year-old student and he is aspiring to be a texture artist in the film industry Software MARI, ZBrush, 3ds Max, UVLayout, NUKE

Little Tree Frog, 2016

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The casing A series of valves and springs ensures the foam is released with enough force in order to keep the consistency intact

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Techniques Our experts


The best artists from around the world reveal specific CG techniques


Vikrant J Dalal Vikrant has several years of VFX experience. His company produces 3D tutorials


Damon Woods

Damon’s goal is to inspire people who look at his art, and motivate videogame players or artists

iClone 6

John C Martin II

John is a 15-year veteran in real-time 3D animation and software with Reallusion

Create viscous fluids S




from • RealFlow File • 3ds Max File • Tutorial Screenshots


treaming viscous liquid can be done for anything, for example for chocolate syrup trickling onto chocolate balls, for honey or for any other thick liquid. So to start off, we will introduce the idea of streaming liquid. You may have seen many TV commercials with this kind of effect so it will be interesting for us to re-create it. There is a variety of software in which we can make this viscous liquid effect, such as Naiad, RealFlow, Houdini, the Phoenix FD plugin for 3ds Max and much more. But many big visual effects and animation studios will use RealFlow software as part of their pipeline, as RealFlow is older, more trustworthy to them and – most importantly – user friendly. There are different techniques you can use to make this effect in RealFlow, such as Liquid Hybrido and Liquid Particle, but we are going to use Liquid Particle. Before you start working on this kind of effect, you should have a good knowledge of liquid properties. You must know what viscosity, density, stickiness and friction is, for example. There are also different types of liquids for you to consider like water, oil, milk, honey and paint, and every single one of these has different properties. We can’t teach you each and every parameter of RealFlow, as the software is very vast and so you will need a lot of time to go through it all. So as far as the streaming liquid is concerned we will learn only as much is required for this particular technique only. This is a very interesting subject, because you can’t define one particular process to create a liquid effect. If you make full use of your creativity and tools then you will find different types of effects to make every single time. So it all very much depends on your own understanding of how to use tools and techniques. Let’s get started!


Scene setup Open RealFlow and create a new project. Now check the Scene Scale is 10.0 and for that go to Scale Options as shown in the image below. Now it might be set to 1.0, so make it 10.0. This will increase the simulation time but you will get the proper output.


Create animated liquid – Particle Emitter We are going to use the Square Particle Emitter to emit liquid. We need to animate this Emitter to spread the liquid on the floor. So select Square Emitter and go to Node Params and change the Position and Scale. Now animate this emitter in the z axis. Go to frame 0, set the z position to -2.0, then right-click and select Add Key. Now go over to frame 20, set the z position to 2.0 and select Add Key. Then go to frame 40, set the z position to -2.0 and select Add Key. Now keep following this process until you get to the last frame and you will get the animated emitter. 01


Set the parameters of the liquid – the Particle Emitter After you


Loop animation to animate square emitter

finish up with the animation of the Emitter, set the parameters of the Particle Emitter. So select the Emitter and go to the Particles section in Node Params. Change the Resolution to 10, Density to 2000 and Viscosity to 600. Now go to the Square section and set the speed to 20. You can change or try different parameters for better output.

In this tutorial we have to animate the square from the first frame to last frame, but you can save this time by using loop animation. So for that follow our steps until frame 40, then right-click on the z axis position and select Open Curve. Now click on the Keys option in the toolbar, go to Last Node Behavior and select Loop. Now you can see your animation continuing until the last frame.


Create plane Let’s create a base for our liquid, so go to Geometry and click on Plane, now you can see the plane has been generated in the viewport. Select the plane and go to Node Params and change the Scale as shown in our step’s image. Now move ahead to Liquid – Particles Interaction and change the parameters as shown. It is very important to understand these parameters, because the liquid and geometry interactions depend on this section.


Set the gravity daemon To drop


Set the K-Isolated daemon This


the liquid downwards we need gravity, and for that purpose we will use the Gravity daemon. So click on Show Daemon Menu and select Gravity. Now move to Nodes Params and set the Gravity Strength to 9.8 – increase it to drop the liquid faster.

daemon will delete any isolated particles after the specified time because isolated particles can slow down a simulation. So click on Show Daemon Menu and select K-Isolated. Now move to K-Isolated Parameters and set the Isolated Time to 0.1.


Set the K-Volume daemon and Drag Force daemon There are


many cases where particles become invisible in the final camera view or leave a certain area. In most cases these particles only increase simulation time without any additional benefit for the project. Sometimes there are also some particles escaping from a scene, slowing down the fluid engine significantly. It is necessary to remove all of these unwanted particles, and in this situation the K-Volume daemon is very helpful. Click on Show Daemon Menu and select K-Volume to start using it. Now go to K-Volume Parameters and click on Fit to Scene. You can add Drag Force daemon as well to slow down the particles, but don’t change any parameters – keep it as it is.



Use different parameters and daemons

Try using different parameters and daemons so that you will be able to get to know a lot of liquid properties, and this becomes easier when you come to try working with various kinds of liquids – for example honey, milk, oil, water and so on.




Start the simulation After setting


up all of the prescribed parameters and animation it’s time to hit the Simulation button. This will take around four to five hours – the timeframe completely depends upon your machine’s configuration. If you don’t have a highly configured machine then you must go to Square Emitter and reduce the resolution before simulating it. By doing this you might get a worse quality simulation but you will be able to achieve it with machines that aren’t top of the range.


Meshing After simulation we will get the liquid in particle form so now it’s time to convert the particles into a mesh. For this purpose, go to Show Mesh Menu in the toolbar and then select Particle Mesh (Legacy). This selection will be reflected in the Nodes section. Here you have to right-click on ParticleMeshLegacy, select the Insert Emitter’s option and then click Add Square Emitter. Again click on ParticleMeshLegacy and change the appropriate parameters in Nodes Params, which is on the right-hand side of Nodes. Now click on the Square Emitter, which falls under ParticleMeshLegacy in Nodes, and change the parameters. Now again click on ParticleMeshLegacy and hit the Build Mesh Sequence button on the toolbar.






building up the meshes, it’s time to import the mesh into 3ds Max. Open the 3ds Max file and through RealFlow Mesh Loader import the liquid mesh. You will find this option in the Geometry section on the right.

RealFlow 5 vs RealFlow 2014

In this tutorial we have formed a liquid effect by using Liquid – Particles and this same effect can be achieved by using Liquid – Hybrido. To use the latter method you will have to modify parameters according to Hybrido. It’s up to you how you use these parameters. We’re using Liquid – Particles in RealFlow 2014, because for us it is easier than the Liquid – Hybrido method. But in RealFlow 5, Particle Fluid is not that easy, whereas the Grid Fluid method is easier and faster for creating our liquid effect.

Get in touch for answers

to your technical quandaries


Import mesh into 3ds Max After


importing the mesh, you can set up the lights as per your requirements and render the sequence. Here we have chosen V-Ray as a renderer and VRayMtl as the material. You can assign your own material and renderer as per your requirement.


Lighting and rendering After


Post-process with After Effects

After finishing up with rendering, import the sequence into After Effects and assign some effects to it as per your requirements. Then export this image sequence in video format and you’re done!


All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

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The real skill in applying the digital ink is knowing when and where to put your tattoos




from • Tutorial screenshots • Video breakdown



The art of tattooing


he art of tattooing goes back centuries and is practised by cultures all over the world. For some, it serves as a rite of passage and a personal statement about one’s heritage, culture and beliefs. For others, tattoos just make you look cool in a tank top. Whatever the motivation, it’s undeniable that tattoos can vastly change the way a person is perceived. In this tutorial, we will go over how to add an extra layer of flair with the addition of some well-placed body ink. The actual technique for applying these tattoos is pretty simple to pick up and you may be tempted to go crazy with the ink. But the real skill in applying the digital ink is knowing when and where to put your tattoos. This technique should be seen as complementary to a piece of character art. We’ll also go over the different types of tattoos and the message that they send. Part of being a good character artist is the ability to look past the polygons and texture maps and really understand your subject as a living, breathing person with a backstory. Finally, we’ll go over a few rendering and compositing tips using ZBrush BPR to show off your inking skills to the world.





Types of tattoos First, it’s important to understand

the types of tattoos that are out there. Make sure that the you understand the tattoo’s meaning and that it fits your character’s personality. An out-of-place tattoo can be extremely distracting and even hilarious (in a bad way). Also make sure, that they aren’t placed in distracting places on the body where they will draw the viewer’s eye away from the intended focal point of the character.


Create the tattoo alpha Using Photoshop, create

an alpha of the image that you will be using for your tattoo. You can turn almost any image into a tattoo. Sketches, photos, graphic designs, text – it’s really up to you. Just make sure that the image is completely desaturated and that it is in a 1 x 1 (one to one) space. For best results, try to use high-resolution images. A figure around 1000 x 1000 pixels is a good number.



Mask the tattoo alpha Load the image to your

alpha palette. Then, with the Ctrl/Cmd key held down, select it as the alpha for your mask. Set your Focal Shift to -100 and set your brush stroke to DragRect. Now drag the alpha onto your model to the desired size and orientation. Just like in the previous step, make sure that your model is subdivided a good amount so that you don’t lose resolution. Because the body has curves, you may get some unwanted stretching around the edges of your alpha. Don’t sweat it. We’ll teach you how to fix that in the next step.


Refine the mask With our mask applied, hold Ctrl/ Command and click in an empty space to reverse the mask. Everything should now be masked except for the tattoo design itself. Now go in and clean up any stretching or imperfections that occurred while dragging the mask. 77



Fill in the alpha Once you’re done cleaning up the


Colour in the tattoo After you’ve filled in your line


mask, hit Ctrl/Cmd+H to hide it. When choosing a colour for your line work, never use a pure black colour as it will look fake and slapped on. Real tattoos become faded over time by the elements and the healing process of the body. Even the darkest inks will take on a green-ish hue. With your colour selected, paint in the lines so that your design is revealed.

work, reverse your mask again so that now the line work is masked off. Now, you can colour in your design without fear of painting over your lines. You’ve essentially turned your character into a human colouring book!


Text tattoos A popular tattoo choice is text.

Sometimes a picture isn’t enough and people want to literally spell out the meaning of their tattoos. Choose a font that has a good volume and makes sense for the subject matter. Old English and Gothic fonts are especially popular. Do some research and look at the types of lettering common in the tattoo world. Or break from convention and choose something completely different. Just remember to spellcheck everything. You do not want any regrets down the road.



Lightbox method An alternate method to applying

tattoos is using ZBrush’s Lightbox tool. With Lightbox, you can project a fully coloured tattoo right onto your model. Lightbox also reads pure black as transparent, so when preparing them in Photoshop, set all of the areas that you want cut out to black. Use an adjustment layer to change the hue of your line work so that it matches the line colour of your other tattoos. Then load your image into textures and hit the ‘Add to Spotlight’ button. Finally place the image over your model and paint it on. 05


Colouring tip

When colouring in the tattoos, notice that many tattoo artists don’t fill the colour in all the way to the edge. There is often a soft falloff of colour before it reaches the edge. Too much solid colour will make it look more like body paint than tattoos. Gather plenty of references and even watch some videos of tattoo artists at work. Also pay attention to the saturation of the colours. Remember that because of the nature of tattoos, the ink is beneath the top layer of skin and it blends in with the natural skin tone. Different skin tones react differently with colour. Make sure that the reference that you’re looking at matches your character’s tone.



Lost in translation

We’ve all seen them: people with tattoos in languages that they don’t understand. Sometimes this can have hilarious results. Don’t let your character fall victim to this. Before you start adding random symbols to your character because you think they look cool, find out what they really mean. Sooner or later, someone who speaks that language will see it and you don’t want to get called out for putting a bunch of gibberish on your character.


Pose the character Once you’re happy with your

tattoo work, we can begin posing our subject for a nice render. If you choose a sitting position for your model, feel free to add a simple prop for them to sit on like what we have here. Make sure all of your geo is visible in the SubTool palette and select Transpose Master from the ZPlugin tab. Hit TPoseMesh in the dropdown. ZBrush will automatically merge all of your geo at its lowest subdivision level to make it easy to work with. Now you can mask off sections of your character and pose them using the transform tools. When you’re done posing, go back to the Transpose Master dropdown and hit TPose>SubT. It will now transfer your changes to your original subtools.



Set up your render We’ll be using ZBrush’s BPR

Renderer this time round. Start by setting up your lights by going to the Light tab. Don’t forget to adjust your BPR shadow settings. Bumping up the angle to around 20 gives a softer falloff to your shadows. Next, find a camera angle that you like for showing off your subject. Then save that camera angle under Document>ZAppLink Properties. Turn on ambient occlusion for an extra layer of detail and hit the BPR button.


Render passes Once BPR has finished rendering, go to

Renders>BPR Render Pass. The Beauty Pass render will be there along with Depth, Shadow, AO and Mask. Click on each to save them. Now we can get a few more passes useful for the final image. First is the Fuzz pass. Select the Frame 01 metcap material and make sure your colour palette is pure white. In SubTools, hold Shift and click the paint brush icon to hide all of your texturing. All of your SubTools should have the Frame 01 metcap as its material now. Hit the BPR button to get a render of that. Now to get a spec pass, select the Basic Material and set your colour palette and background to pure black. Set your ambient to zero in the Light tab and hit render. For a nice rim light, put a single strong light behind your model and render.




Put it all together Now we can start compositing our render passess. Start with your beauty pass at the bottom of the stack. Plug your mask into the alpha slot to make the black background transparent. Now add a background image if you’d like. Add the shadow pass and AO pass and set them to Multiply. Add your fuzz layer, adjust the levels so that the fill is pure black and only the edge detail is visible and set it to Screen. Do the same with your rim light and spec layers. Now start adjusting the brightness and saturation with adjustment layers. The Depth and Mask layers can be added to the adjustment layer masks for added control. To add depth of field, duplicate all layers and flatten them. Now, paste the depth pass into the alpha slot. Go to Filter>Blur>Lens Blur and adjust the depth to your liking.

Make the bed

The bed was made using Marvelous Designer. A simple chamfer box was created and then imported into Marvelous. The sheet is just a rectangle draped over the box. Then you simply toss the sheet around in real-time until you have some interesting folds. The bed and sheets are then imported into the ZBrush scene so that we can sit our character on it. Even though she looks pretty thin, she still has weight to her, so be sure to add a slight indentation on the bed with your Move brush.

All tutorial files can be downloaded from: 79



Rig and animate a game character in one day




from • iClone 6 pro trial • Character Creator trial • Tutorial screenshots • Video tutorial


ame development today is an open door for those with the ambition to learn an engine like Unity, Unreal or Stingray. The learning resources provided by these game engines are abundant and can take you from initial ideas and doodles to a conceptual game in a shocking amount of time. There are also a number of tools and assets available to game developers now that help complete the skill set so you don’t have to be an expert at everything to create great content and code. There are terrain creators, particle systems, code to help with artificial intelligence, GUI generators and virtually every other aspect of the game art creation and development process that can be assisted with the use of specialised tools or content packs to address most specific needs. The same solution now also exists for 3D videogame character generation with Reallusion’s iClone Character Creator. This tutorial introduces and guides you through the process of creating a fully rigged and ready-toanimate 3D game character in one day from scratch. This character will now be ready for you to export via FBX to a game engine and distribute with your game or project.


Select and shape a character base The iClone

Character Creator is where we begin the character design by selecting from one of the included character base models. Each male or female model has full-body parametric shaping tools to morph the body style into thin, stout, muscular, athletic or average appearances. The morphing gizmo is also a quick way to shape your models by highlighting a body part or muscle group and using the mouse to drag the shape and size.


Morph the face Moving on from the body, the facial design is next and can be made simple by using the (J) hotkey to activate the face camera and quickly get to morphing the face. The face may be shaped using either the mouse and Morph Gizmo directly in the viewport or by adjusting the parametric sliders from the Morphs tree. When shaping the face it is a good practice to use Alt+right-click to rotate the camera and see the effects of your morphing from different perspectives. The facial hairline, freckles and skin can be edited by launching the Appearance Editor to dynamically edit eyes, eyebrows, moustaches, beards, layers of makeup and more.


Clothing, conforming cloth and accessories





This demo calls for clothing with lots of dirt, wear and tear as the subject of the game project is a castaway. The iClone Character Creator conforming cloth allows the clothing samples to be formfitting or various levels of baggy and dishevelled. The Appearance Editor will open the dynamic textures for the clothing elements and provide a handy RGB colour map diagnostic to see how the clothing design can be easily edited. Further clothing effects can be added using the procedural holes and dirt generation. Finally, add some shoes from the included library and edit their appearance. Save your character project and send the character to iClone.


Character animation with iClone The castaway

character is fully rigged from head to toe including facial bones and blend shapes that enable it for animation. The Motion Puppet tool in iClone is used to generate an idle motion that we will use in our game to blend with other Mecanim motions provided by Unity3D. The Motion Puppet has customisable presets for walks, runs, talking gestures, expressions and idle motions. Preview motions on your character in real-time and adjust the sliders to tweak them. When you’re happy, use the Record button and record the motion to the timeline as a motion track.


Export character and animation in FBX Once the animation is complete the next step is to collect the performance and send it to 3DXchange for FBX exporting to Unity3D. Inside the iClone timeline the character’s track gives access to the motion tracks, keyframes and lip-sync or facial animation. The entire character’s animation performance is located on the timeline along with the Collect Clip track which is used to select the area of the timeline to be exported to 3DXchange. We’ll begin by sending the character model to 3DXchange by double-clicking the character and then pressing ‘Edit in 3DXchange’ in the Modify panel. 3DXchange will open, if it isn’t already, and the character model will appear in 3DXchange ready to export. Next we will return to iClone and in the Timeline use the Collect Clip track to select the area of the timeline we want to send to 3DXchange, defining it as a performance clip that we’ll use for our FBX export. Right-click on the collected clip area and select ‘Add Motion to 3DXchange’ or ‘Add MotionPlus to 3DXchange’. Use MotionPlus for characters with body, facial and lip-sync animation.


Export and set up a character in Unity3D


Apply controller The final step is to get your




After you have added your character and motion clips to 3DXchange, use the FBX exporter drop-down menu that lets you target the engine you plan to use the character inside and automatically checks the appropriate boxes for exporting your file. You may choose to export all the animation performance sequences as one FBX or as separate FBX files.

character and animation into Unity3D and apply the 3rd Person Character Controller. Along with the motions created in iClone the Character Creator model can also instantly adopt the Mecanim motion system in Unity and run, walk, crouch and jump in your game scene, as well as perform your custom motions. The video included on FileSilo with this tutorial will give you the steps needed to use the free version of Unity to import and activate your iClone character as a fully functional game-ready asset all in one day.

Facial animation and lip-sync bonus tutorial

Learn even more about animating characters for games with a bonus iClone video tutorial included with this issue of 3D Artist. In addition to learning how to create a game character in one day you can also get a comprehensive walkthrough on how to make talking game characters and export them for use in Unity3D. The iClone Facial Animation tutorial covers lip-sync creation, lip editor, face puppet and motion puppet animation for games.



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Twinmotion 2016

We get stuck into the latest release of the real-time visualisation and 3D immersion software


winmotion has excelled itself once again. Right from the inception of this software a few years ago we’ve been impressed by not only its commitment to innovation but also its clear desire to provide features that actually make a difference in the lives of artists on live projects. The adoption of real-time software like this can often seem daunting for traditional artists but Twinmotion makes that process as pain free as is humanly possible. Let’s take a quick look at a typical visualisation project to see how incredibly useful this piece of software is to all artists. Firstly, you’ll have made your 3D model in another piece of software and Twinmotion enables that import via many of the major file types that you’ll be working with, such as FBX, DWG and C4D. Secondly, you want to get some light and create an environment. Simple sliders enable you to customise the lighting, the sky and even particles such as rain and snow – the incredible thing is that you can see all of these before your eyes in real time. In terms of the surround, you can populate your scene with vast amounts of vegetation, suitable for gardens or forests alike. All of these are even animated! Thirdly, you can make use of Twinmotion’s massive materials library to dress your model. These are incredibly handy but we have to say that this is still an area where there is room for much improvement. What Twinmotion is achieving in


terms of realism at real-time speeds is truly incredible and we can’t wait to see the boundaries of more photorealistic materials be pushed in the coming years. All of that was possible with previous versions, though, so let’s look at a couple of new features that users can look forward to in the new release. Firstly, there’s BIMmotion, which extends your models to clients who don’t own a licence of Twinmotion. It’s essentially a viewer and we can really see this being adopted by many agencies for pre-vis purposes. Twinmotion enables you to get something set up at breakneck speeds and BIMmotion gives your client access to it. Secondly, and this feature is amazing, there is ‘True landscape’ that lets you create topology from Google Earth. It’s real 3D topology and even takes the texture. This really is incredible and we’re looking forward to finding other uses for it in the coming months. Paul Hatton

TOP Setting up a forest scene is particularly easy with Twinmotion’s preset terrains and preset vegetation. Simple drag, drop and paint solutions are easy to work with BOTTOM Lighting and shadows are instantly applied to your scene with real-time feedback as you adjust the lighting and customise the materials

Essential info

€1,650 Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 8GB minimum Nvidia GTX 770 / AMD Radeon R9 280X minimum HDD space 5GB minimum Price Website OS RAM GPU


Features Performance Design Value for money


All in all, this is an excellent new release and we’d highly recommend either upgrading or trying it out for the first time

SimLab Composer 6.1.9 Pro

We discover how Composer fares with tackling the everyday task of creating and sharing visualisations


imLab Composer comes in four flavours: Hobbyist/Educational, Pro, Mechanical and Ultimate. For this review we took the Pro version for a test drive, which is aimed at architects and interior designers. The workbenches in Pro are Scene Building, Sharing, Rendering, Animation, Texture Baking (Windows only) and Expo. The Scene Building workbench has a common range of import formats available. To avoid having to revisit your 3D application, tools such as Snapping, Instancing and Materials are available for scene setup. However, we encountered setbacks using the FBX and OBJ files of an Airstream caravan that we had recently completed. They arrived in Composer with hard normals and we had no success resolving the issue using the Geometry tab and Normals tools, so a higher-res poly was re-exported instead. On further examination, edges were bizarrely missing from imported meshes. Next we began replacing unsupported materials on the asset. When replacing Mia Material x (glass) with Composer’s Thin Glass material for the FBX export everything went smoothly, but doing the same with an OBJ export caused the Airstream chassis to inadvertently become a glass material too. Aside from assignment issues, there’s a good range of preset Materials in Composer and settings to create your own. The Texture Coordinates tab also lets you change texture placement on objects. Then we switched to the Quadcopter asset included with Composer for the Lighting, Texture

Baking and Animation setups. Texture Baking the Quadcopter at production quality was timeconsuming but also easy to get to grips with. The rather limited Animation workbench has common options such as turntable, wheel animation and follow path. Keyframing is possible but there’s only a Dope Sheet available. Animating the Quadcopter at the top level of hierarchy worked well, but when we decided to animate it by hovering with just the propellers rotating, the animation was inexplicably applied to the transform attributes. This caused the propeller to animate off axis uncontrollably, which we couldn’t resolve. Hi-res production-quality rendering to file is slow and we also worryingly spotted black pixel artefacts when rendering the included studio asset in high quality. This was easy to fix with an image editor but can be problematic for clips. Export options include common file formats, 3D PDF, HTML/ WebGL and Android/iPad for client presentations. Paul Champion

BOTTOM SimLab Composer is a stand-alone 3D application available in four different versions. The Pro edition caters for both product and architectural, interior and exterior rendering MIDDLE The real-time Clay View is a rendering mode for viewing the effect of lights in a scene that changes all materials , except for glass, to grey matte

Essential info

Price $149 for an upgrade, $299 for the full Pro edition Website OS Windows 64-bit (7 to 10) / Mac OS X 10.9 or later RAM 2GB Disc space 2GB CPU Windows: Intel or AMD processor / Mac: Intel-based Mac, Core 2 Duo processor and up Display 1440 X 900


Features Performance Design Value for money


Hurdles with asset importing, animation and rendering overshadowed an otherwise productive experience with Composer Pro


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

088 Community news

Humster3D Car Challenge

The winners of the biggest car rendering challenge in the world reveal how they made their impressive images

090 Industry news

The most important factor that makes an image appear real is the amount of details put into it

V-Ray for 3ds Max

All the latest features from version 3.3 and MODO 902 gets a surprising update!

092 Advertorial

The VFX Festival

Sergey Smereka, CG artist

In a sponsored message, Escape Studios, part of Pearson College London, reveals why its 2016 festival line-up is so special

094 Social

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The latest images created by the community



First place winner, Carlos Pecino, lives in Malaga, Spain and is freelancing for several different companies in the advertising world

Car Render Challenge winners revealed The champions of’s 2015 challenge explain how they made their award-winning entries


rom a whopping 182 entries in the competition, the jury has selected three winners for the best car render. Taking pole position, Carlos Pecino was awarded first place for his stunning Mercedes AMG GT 2080 artwork, which he created using 3ds Max, V-Ray and Photoshop. Carlos Pecino began the project by searching for reference material: “One of the hardest things for me was to find references of racing car pieces. Thanks to the amount of photos on and competition forums, I retrieved a lot of information and I started modelling.” He also browsed through his hard drive to find and recycle old models or items that he could reuse such as wheels, tires, brake discs, textures. The next demand was to choose appropriate lighting, as Carlos says: “It’s not just [about setting up] a VRayLight, the lights tell us a story, providing hue and enhancing the shaders.” He also had to overcome hardware restraints, “My biggest challenge was to optimise my scene because I only had 24GB of RAM; it basically [worked] step by step, saving size in polygons and textures for the final result.”


Runner-up Sergey Smereka produced a very detailed render titled ‘Sick Bastards’ using 3ds Max, Corona, ZBrush and Photoshop. “The hardest part to model was the car’s engine,” Sergey reveals. “I had to dive into mechanical drawings and photos to make it.” Producing the image also gave him a good workout with UVW texture unwrapping too. But his biggest problem turned out to be a surplus of time. “When we were students, we used to prepare all the exams the night before the deadline. Same with my everyday work, usually we have very tight deadlines. Because when you have too much time, you work much slower.” Not rushing the image meant Sergey could pay enough time and attention to all aspects of the scene and the final image took over a month to create as he worked only in the evenings, after regular working hours. “The most important factor that makes an image appear real is the amount of details put into it. When I am working for one camera view, I add most of the details to the foreground objects. This gives an impression that all the geometry in the image is very detailed.” Also a practicing painter, Sergey preferred to give extra focus to texture painting and post-production. “I have spent a lot of time on textures – most of the textures are custom and handmade. Bump maps, reflection maps and dirt maps give a great amount of details to the image even if the geometry is not very complex.”

Second place winner, Sergey Smereka, is a CG artist and designer based in Odessa, Ukraine working for 3D render and visualisation Company, RStyle3D

The lights tell us a story, providing hue and enhancing the shaders Carlos Pecino, freelance artist

Redshift boosts Outpost’s renders

OutpostVFX empowered its rendering when it adopted GPU-accelerated renderer Redshift into its pipeline

Third place winner, Piotr Tatar, is a rendering and look dev artist for Platige Image

Piotr Tatar took third place with his atmospheric Breaking Bad inspired RV Winnebago, created using 3ds Max, V-Ray, NUKE, FumeFX, Marvelous Designer, Photoshop, MARI and Speedtree. “I wanted to do something different from my professional work, which is commercials. I’m big fan of the Breaking Bad TV series and I knew that I needed to make the RV from this show because it seems to be much different from other more common vehicles. It’s really ugly for sure, but before Breaking Bad nobody even recognised it – now it [has] become iconic.” Capturing the atmospheric feel was Piotr’s intention from the start. “I knew in the early concept what mood I wanted to achieve, which was magic hour with stormy clouds. The warm colouring seemed to be the natural choice in this case – it’s not very original but it felt effective.” Other challenges included learning new plugins such as FumeFX to render smoke and dust. To tweak details, render tests were made at 5K res with region rendering.

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Evaluating the best rendering solution for a visual effects studio concerns more than just the end result that it can produce, it can also depend on a few contributing factors. “In a high-end VFX facility you have three considerations – quality, time and price,” explains Outpost VFX director Duncan McWilliam, “Quality is obviously key, and speed of render is intrinsically linked to this – if our artists can get 20 iterations of their lighting an hour on GPU as opposed to five or six on CPU, then they can try out more ideas and ultimately get more creative.” Alongside the advantage of time for greater creativity, there are practical,

financial benefits too. “With Redshift, the licences and hardware are cheaper per frame created than any CPU system meaning, once again, if I have a fast renderer, I’m running a more efficient system.” For these reasons, McWilliam says that Redshift is a huge benefit to the studio, “Having that speed allows us to increase both output and quality, and that’s invaluable.” “As an artist and a producer my final choice of renderer represents an evaluation of the best quality we can create competitively… Redshift currently answers those needs – it’s a long way ahead of the competition.”

McWilliam’s team were able to test render at an amazing “five seconds a frame”

In the recent Jaguar F-PACE commercial created by OutpostVFX the Jaguar is assembled piece by piece

@3DArtist 89


MODO gets an update

V-Ray Clipper is a render-time effect that doesn’t modify the scene geometry in any way

Version 902 brings new camera matching tools and improved workflows

Free upgrade to V-Ray for 3ds Max

V-Ray 3.3 (Service Pack 3) introduces a new variancebased adaptive sampler and faster rendering


he latest update from Chaos Group includes over 25 new features plus a range of updates to global illumination, GPU rendering, volume rendering and more that promise to yield a 20 per cent to 50 per cent rendering speed boost for most scenes. There’s also a new variance-based adaptive sampler (VBAS); an algorithm to optimise render set-up time. VBAS takes away the need to set up subdivisions for lights

How does VBAS work?

VBAS offers improved sampling of dark areas and faster sampling of the bright areas. Noise detection is now more consistent and the final image quality is also less dependent on materials and lights settings. VBAS also provides improved alpha channel sampling, notably in scenes with depth of field and motion blur.

and materials – this makes it easier to produce high quality and predictable renders. VBAS is enabled by default and it works in both bucket and progressive rendering modes. Other new features include ray-traced rounded corners that use advanced edge detection to create perfectly smooth edges at render time automatically, and work with separate objects such as VRayProxy objects and displaced objects. Meanwhile, the Hosek sky model simulates natural-looking skies and ground colour options for VRaySun and VRaySky with aerial perspective and atmospheric depth. The new triplanar mapping tool can be used for seamless textures without UVs and it works on procedural geometry, giving control over edge bleeding including randomisation. There is also the improved V-Ray Clipper with a render time Booleans feature that supports cutaways using any mesh. You can also create materials with sparkle effects such as snow, sand and car paint with Stochastic Flakes.

The unexpected and free update for 901 owners contains an incredible 170 bug fixes and many new tools. Camera matching a 3D camera to a background image has been made easier as MODO will now extract and read the image’s metadata automatically when you click the ‘Apply EXIF data to Camera Settings’ option. You can also set the camera render resolution per camera in a similar fashion, which serves as an override to the main scene settings. GPS and time-of-day data can be applied to the MODO Physical Sun setup to match real world settings too. The Camera Plane Modifier enables you to create an image plane to adjust size, position and rotation to keep it filling the screen as you specify depth. Version 902’s Brushes feature Projection Ink, enabling you to paint projected textures onto UV-mapped geometry and blend images from multiple cameras. The projection shader and texture further streamlines the texture projection workflow.

You can automatically apply EXIF lens information to your MODO Camera with a single click

HAVE YOU HEARD? Landscape tool Terragen 4 is in development and a first look has alreay been posted online 90

Side Effects gets in the game The Houdini Engine plugin beta for Unreal Engine 4 becomes an official release version

An official version of Houdini Engine for Unreal Engine 4, which has been in public beta since last April, has now been released to the public for Houdini and Houdini Indie. Prices for Houdini Engine range from $99 annually for Houdini Indie to $499 annually for Houdini. “All of the modelling and texturing improvements in Houdini 15 have been developed with game artists in mind,” says Judith Crow, director of the games segment at Side Effects. “These tools can be used for interactive modelling in the viewport or to create procedural assets, which can be loaded into the UE4 editor using the Houdini Engine plugin.” Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic Games, adds, “Unreal Engine 4 gives developers powerful procedural features, which are seamlessly enhanced through the Houdini Engine integration.”

Create detailed meshes

Code-Artists releases the AutoModeller Pro v1.0 next-gen modelling plugin for 3ds Max

With the new Automodeller Pro, artists can apply or paint a group of meshes onto existing base mesh geometry in real time. These objects can then be sliced, soft sliced, scaled, deformed at the borders or wrapped around curvature. You can also paint any geometry texture on any object in the scene. For handling enormous scenes it will also support instances, proxies, is multithreaded and the Preview Mode Tool automatically hides any target geometry that you are not currently working on. Therefore, when you are rendering, it’s advised to enable Render Hidden Geometry.

Software shorts RealFlow 2015.1

Next Limit has released a RealFlow update containing over 50 new features and improvements. Dyverso gains wetmaps, domain interaction and support for working with textures for geometry interaction. Plus, there is CUDA support for faster simulations, RealWave interaction, Maxwell Volumetric Rendering, C++ and Python updates, and bug fixes.

Now the plugin is officially released a commercial or indie licence is required

Frankie iOS app released Cospective has released a dedicated iPhone and iPad app for its web-based review tool

The Frankie app has finally been relased for iOS devices, offering the same functionality of a desktop session. Cospective’s Frankie app will enable users to play, pause, scrub, draw on frames and make text notes, all in sync with everyone else that is in the review session including other desktop users. Sessions will occur in a guest-only view. Rory McGregor, Cospective CEO, comments: “Frankie is the easiest way to share and collaborate with video in real-time regardless of user location. Using the new Frankie iOS app, users can now connect not just from anywhere in the world, but wherever they happen to be during the day – whether that’s at their desk, on location or even en route.”

The Frankie app is currently iOS only but an Android version is on the way

Bringing you the lowdown on product updates and launches 3ds Max Extension 2

The free upgrade to Autodesk 3ds Max 2016 brings new tools and workflow improvements including Texture Object Masks to create, place and animate multiple materials. You’ll also be able to apply materials to objects using shapes; simulate data importing and animation; and utilise Text and Shape Maps for using objects as a mask for custom decals.

Maya LT 2016 Extension 2

Maya LT 2016 Extension 2 is now available as a free upgrade. New features include the ability to search, browse and purchase from the Creative Market in Maya LT, automated LOD generation with user-defined percentage of mesh reduction, and the export and import of skin weight maps for greater flexibility and more.

DID YOU KNOW? Videos and materials from Autodesk University 2015 presentations are now available online for free 91


The VFX Festival 2016

The VFX Festival 2016 Escape Studios’ annual CG celebration returns in 2016 with a star-studded line-up of games, animation and VFX guest speakers


rought to you by Escape Studios, part of Pearson College London, the VFX Festival 2016 will feature speakers from the world’s most recognised studios across VFX, animation and games; it will delve into and discuss the convergence that is taking place across the creative industries. The festival will consider how the different disciplines are coming together and the opportunities that have been created as a result. The Mill will kick-off the festival, presenting on Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and discussing the Google ATAP Project, with Hamilton+Kidd providing a supporting presentation on Virtual Reality and 360-degree technologies. MPC will show how the innovative EarthToMars tool created for The Martian (Twentieth Century Fox, Ridley Scott) combined innovative technology and the perfect location shoot to develop photoreal environments. The CG team enhanced the desert-scape adding additional rocks, craters and mountain ranges to construct a believable Mars world, here on Earth. Further presentations will come from Rushes who will be discussing the amazing motion graphics featured in the new


James Bond film Spectre. World-renowned animation studio Aardman will be talking about all things animation. Lastly, Climax Studios will be representing the world of gaming, talking about its contribution to the very successful games series Assassin’s Creed. Industry convergence is creating brand new challenges and opportunities across all disciplines, where games artists are helping filmmakers to create virtual worlds for 360-degree storytelling. VFX artists are helping developers create convincing and immersive environments, and motion graphics artists are adding layers of information to create rich visual experiences. The VFX Festival, created by Escape Studios, part of Pearson College London, will run from 23-25 February 2016 at London’s O2, bringing the best in VFX, games, animation and motion graphics to industry professionals and anyone that might be considering a career in the creative industries. Tickets for The VFX Festival 2016 are available to buy now from

Develop your passion Become industry ready with the help of Escape Studios’ expert teaching team Escape Studios has over 13 years’ experience in creating world-class, studio-ready talent. Escape offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and a range of short courses in Visual Effects (VFX), Games Art, Motion Graphics and Animation. Its courses are designed and developed with professionals from world-leading studios to ensure students are part of the industry from day one. Escape’s number one priority is to help students prepare for and land great jobs, by distilling the best working practices from the creative industries. If you want to develop your passion and learn a craft, visit:

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............................................................................................................................................................... TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY VFX, Games & Animation Newcomers HEADLINER: • The Mill – Feature on: AR and VR, Google ATAP Project • Feature presentation – Hamilton+Kidd (VR and 360) ............................................................................................................................................................... WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY VFX, Games & Animation Enthusiasts HEADLINER: • MPC – VFX Feature on: “The Martian” FEATURE PRESENTATIONS: • Rushes (Motion Graphics Feature on “Spectre”) • Aardman (Animation) • Climax Studios (Game Art) ............................................................................................................................................................... THURSDAY 25 FEBRUARY VFX, Games & Animation Professionals  • Career and recruitment talks by a range of leading studios ...............................................................................................................................................................


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Images of the month These are the 3D projects that have been awarded ‘Image of the week’ on in the last month 01 Hybrid Sea Monster

by Neranjan Karawita 3DA username Neranjan Neranjan says: “I have blended an elephant and a whale. The trunk-like organ works as an octopus limb to hunt prey. It’s also armed with a turtle shell-style structure around the chest area.” We say: This is a fascinating image for many reasons and an underwater elephant hybrid isn’t something we’ve come across before! We really like Neranjan’s command of colour.

02 Passions

by Yones Bana 3DA username Yones Yones says: “The aim of this scene was to create a pleasant atmosphere and comfortable bedroom. To achieve this purpose, I used a classic green style, and I did it by making use of 3ds Max, V-Ray and Photoshop.” We say: This is a great concept. We love the pillars in the foreground and the curvature of the hole in the wall, and Yones’s work with the quilt on the bed is fantastic.

03 Gem Eater

by Paolo Giandoso 3DA username Paolo Giandoso Paolo says: “Here is a Gem-Eater, a minute inhabitant of a crystallised world. It only eats gemstones and tends to assume the colour of the most abundant crystals in the area.” We say: We fell in love with this little creature straight away. Paolo has done brilliantly to create such a cool crystalline effect, and his depth of field and lighting effects are both spot on – great work Paolo!

Image of the month 01

04 Mechanical Eye

by Nadeera Gunasekara 3DA username nadeera3d Nadeera says: “My aim was to make a different kind of eye. This isn’t exactly a human eye, but I tried to bring it to life by using mechanical stuff.” We say: Another cool concept here, and one that demonstrates a lot of technical prowess as well. We really like the mess of wires and the scratched metal material that Nadeera has applied to the eye’s underside.



A Relaxed Weekend! by Aref Razavi & Mahtab Oladi 3DA username aref.razavi/Mahtab Oladi Aref and Mahtab say: “The concept was to design a relaxed and pleasant space for the rest of the weekend – a wooden space in the middle of the jungle with a warm fireplace! We created this image with 3ds Max, V-Ray and Photoshop. We hope that you enjoy it!” We say: Aref and Mahtab have created a really warm, natural scene here and we’re very impressed by the overall composition. The light filtering through the windows creates a fresh atmosphere.



Elf by Damian Jara 3DA username damian85osg Damian says: “I wanted to create a little fantasy scene with an elf and a dragon/snake creature just for fun, so here it is! I used ZBrush, 3ds Max and KeyShot for rendering.” We say: This is a cool sculpt and looks like it was a lot of fun to put together. Damian has done really well to use different brushes to create interesting textures and effects on the dragon’s head, making it seem ancient and fierce.

Scorched Earth City by Bartosz Domiczek 3DA username bartosz.domiczek Bartosz says: “This image is a personal work created to evoke the feeling of being trapped in an overheated city during the summer months. The postapocalyptic theme was used as the pretext for exaggeration and introducing finer details.” We say: Unlike a lot of similar scenes, it’s really easy to understand this one, which is a real bonus. A brilliant composition with great textures. 95

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More variety than nature itself: Cinema 4D Release 17 Faster. Easier. More Realistic. Cinema 4D Release 17 makes the easiest-to-use professional 3D software more efficient than ever before. New tools as well as expanded and completely reworked features help you turn your ideas into reality even quicker and with less effort. The improved workflow helps you meet the tightest deadlines. We’ve even gone so far as to re-invent the line!

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