E D I T OR ' S N OT E
Welcome to this issue of AWAmag.
This is the very first issue ever of and we hope you are as excited as we are to begin these little baby steps and someday look back to see the progress so far. To make this a reality it surely needs you out there to be the ready audience and we welcome your suggestions, inputs and contributions towards ensuring success always. This first issue is a start and we have deliberately not made it too packed hopefully, however we expect you would equally find it developmental as all other future issues would be.
In this issue, our contributors include RickyTim Efobi a freelance artist formerly of Dreamcast Animation Studio, Dadi Dindul of Ludnid Initiatives (Architect/Design Visualizer), Sam King a London, UK based senior character artist and more. Keep Lookin' Up Sen-Deboh for AWAmag
CONTENT GIMPtalk - Sen Cover Image African Beauty Breakdown - Ricky Archi Viz: Light and Shadows - Dadi Making of Flyer - Toochi Pirate Chick Breakdown - Ricky Tribal Alien: Making Of - Sam King AWA Store Items
AWA Store items
(customized front - back print)
GIMP â€“ GNU Image Manipulation Programme As a Linux user and who is equally into graphics, I certainly know about open source and free software, using open source or free is not just a question of money (which is indeed a strong point), its also a matter of principle, need or requirement and reach, among other things. Its a world large controlled by Adobe and a lot of thanks to Photoshop for that control, so I can understand if you do not know or do not use or maybe have have not heard of GIMP, while there is a constant flame war between the users of each trying to justify and list reasons why one is better or a replacement for the other, this article only seeks to discuss GIMP and highlight its increasing popularity...online sources has it that the release of GIMP 2.6 and 2.8 each approached a range of 8 million downloads each when they were released and this is not counting the number of Linux users who will have GIMP pre-installed in their OS.
What is GIMP? According to Wiki GIMP is an open-source image editing program, licensed under the GNU General Public Licence. It can be used for editing electronic bitmap images like photographs. Whilst GIMP can edit vector graphics such as SVGs other programs such as Inkscape (which is also free like GIMP) or Adobe Illustrator are far more capable. GIMP, as a fully functioning image editor, rivals other industry standard software such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw, Paint Shop Pro in terms of features such as multiple layers, the ability to resize and re-shape images, cropping, colour manipulation, it has tools used for image retouching and editing, free-form drawing, resizing, cropping, photo-montages, converting between different image formats, and more specialized tasks. Animated images such as GIF and MPEG files can be created using an animation plugin.
GIMP Screenshot - Version 2.8.5
GIMP is used by a variety of people ranging from professional graphic artists, to computer hobbyists of all ages who don't want to put down $700 for a copy of the newest Photoshop. (except of course you are using an unlicensed copy of Photoshop) There are versions tailored for most operating systems including Linux, OS X and Windows making it cross-platform. A few commentators have put their case forward about GIMP and why it is attractive to them, here is a summary of my findings in this regards.
Features Set Many of GIMP's features and tools are comparable to those of commercial photo editing programs, including supporting layers and layer masks, multiple brushes, photo enhancement etc. GIMP supports pen tablets and multiple types of image files, such as JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF formats. There is no doubt that in terms of features, Photoshop may seem to have more features however the GIMP community does create lots of plugin constantly, so it is quite possible that for many of the features that come with Photoshop, there is a GIMP plugin available. Actually there is even a GIMP plugin – PSP - that allows you to run Photoshop plugin in GIMP, so functionality can be easily added, if required. GIMP can open PSD files and save as PSD files, however the CYMK colour profile is not added to GIMP by default, one needs to install like a plugin and activate (this would be meaningful to printers though) An important point to note is that, many of the features in Photoshop are NOT used by the majority of its users, or are used very rarely, so it turns out you might actually be all about a software and features you don’t need.
Price Well, Price is certainly a case for GIMP, its most notable advantage is its price, it is free to download, so why say its price when its free, philosophically speaking someone has had to pay a price somewhere for you to get something free, so that's the opportunity cost economically speaking plus you also have to make an effort to download it too, so its free and costs zero amount and totally unrestricted so it can be used for any purpose, profit or non-profit, and there are no legal ramifications for altering the program, this is where the open source nature comes to play.
Hardware Lets look at this from the OS point of view, GIMP is natively UNIX/Linux and Linux is also a free/open-source OS which is known for its ability to work on very low system specifications and that means that the software bundled with the OS would also work, GIMP is usually one of the bundle software. GIMP is more light-weight and doesn’t require such powerful hardware, but if you are a hardware maniac and can afford to get all the latest and greatest hardware, then the fact that isn’t a factor for you.
Adaptability One of the unusual features of GIMP is that it is easy to program and add new scripts and plugins to the program. Unlike most end user license agreements, which forbid the user from altering the programming, the GIMP end user license agreement encourages it. Users are free to add to or alter the programming, and many users who are able to program new features put them online for other users to download for free. For anyone who is interested in programming, this is a major advantage, as the programming for GIMP is available to examine and alter for any purpose.
Flexibility GIMP is a very flexible program that can be altered to suit the user. The multiple scripts and plug-ins available for this program for free means that the user can find a download that will enable him to do many different tasks and select which features are most suited to his needs. For a user who doesn't know how to program plug-ins or scripts, this is an advantage. While free downloads for other programs are available online, often this is limited to brushes or palettes, since making actual changes to the program is illegal.
Ease of use This one is pretty subjective to the user's experience. While some believe that licensed tools like Photoshop makes tasks are easier to accomplish, some others believe opposite this. Really while the general industry may have compelled people to think in a particular way, they have had to learn tools and software as a matter or necessity not considering its learning curve, they got used to it so its natural to have a bit of discomfort looking at another software that may have a different workflow but similar tools. Even though I for one am quite familiar with GIMP although I am no graphic designer I only turn to GIMP (and Inkscape) for graphics works, I knew Photoshop long before it and only leaned GIMP in 2008 or so when I had to do a compositing project at my studio in Capetown and needed to edit images in an photo editing programme. If you find the GIMP interface too confusing, you could try GIMPshop. This is GIMP with a Photoshop-like interface (unfortunately it is available only for Windows and Mac).
Wrap up It is important to note that GIMP editions are constantly being improved upon, new features are being added and so reviews change often and positively too, and this is what has began to make people consider GIMP as an alternative or replacement for other licensed software, and it may take a bit more time for the industry release their hold on Photoshop requirements for work. These comparisons can give you an idea if GIMP could be a Photoshop alternative or to be treated on its own, like there is no comparison between and apple and an orange, they are both fruits. Now you know about GIMP, why not give it a try if you don't already use it, if only for curiosity sake and share you opinion on the AWA forum. Keep Lookin' Up Sen
Making of African Beauty Hi I am Ricky Tim - Efobi a 3D character Artist based in Lagos, Nigeria. Over the next few pages I am going to explain the major steps in creating the African Beauty 3D artwork. The first thing I do is to look for great inspiring Art. I came across Byan Davis an amazing 2D artist with a unique style. So, I decided to make a Zbrush sculpt out of his character Zahra. Below is the 2D concept art. So I start off with Zspheres to get the overall gesture of the character. Using Zspheres I keep my brush size at 1 so I can manipulate each zsphere with full control. Once I am satisfied with the spheres I convert it to an adaptive skin and start sculpting.
When the topology of the adaptive skin starts restricting the sculpting process, I convert the model to dynamesh and continue from there. Below is the dynamesh work in progress sculpt.
The sculpt is refined some more. To get a smooth and cartoony look to the scuplt I use the trim dynamic, the hard polish and the smooth brush. Notice she has to fingers now. I Duplicated one of the fingers and merged it to the original with dynamesh. At this point I start creating her accessories like her eyelashes and her blouse, as seen below.
For the ear rings I start off with shadowbox and draw the silhouette using making. Then it is converted to a unified skin. The sculpt is then refined using the trim dynamic, move and the hard polish brushes. Finally, I ZRemesh it for a good edge flow. Next up, is her bangles. I start with a Ring3D primitive. Then, in the initialize settings I use values of SRadius=32, SDivide=8, LDivide=12. Then the Make PolyMesh3D button is clicked to enable sculpting on the object. I refer to the concept art very closely here, the get the shape and design patterns on the bangle. And, also the placement of the bangles on the character. Below is the design of the character model so far. Next up will be Fibermesh and Hair styling.
For the hairstyle, I start off by mask the left side of her scalp to generate the fibermesh from. After, the mask is created go down to the fibermesh tab under the tools menu. Then, click on the lightbox fibermesh presets and double click to select the Fibers435.ZFP which is an afro style preset. Once this is done, go into the modifiers tab and reduce the length slider to an appropriate level, and click accept.
Select the fibermesh subtool, then choose the move brush. Under the brush menu in the Auto Masking tab de-select Auto Mask FiberMesh. Do the same procedure for the move and scale transpose tool (W, E, R hotkeys for the transpose tools). This would enable full movement of the fibermesh around the character. Then, using the move brush style the hair. For the bottom part of the afro hair style the same preset is used but, the length slider is increased to an appropriate length of choice then accept. Using the same brush settings to disable the brush auto masking settings.
After the Fibermesh hairstyle is complete, the polypainting process is next. To prepare for poly painting I will enable the concept art in the back ground so I can use it as my color pallette. To do this, go to the left side of the default zbrush interface, click on texture and import the concept art. Then select the texture to make it visible in the texture window. Next, go to the texture menu scroll down to the image plane tab and click load image. This would load the image to the Zbrush background. With the character active in the viewport deselect Zsub and Zadd and enable only RGB. Using the â€˜Câ€™ button on the keyboard the concept art colors can be used to polypaint the model.
For the polypainting I used the skinshade4 or the zbro_paint material available free to download for the skin of the character. First, the character is filled with a skin colour and then the smaller colour details are filled in. For the ear rings I increased the specularity of the skin shade 4 material. For, the bagle I used the metal 01 material or any metallic material of your choice. Masking brushes like the mask lasso, mask curve, mask circle are used to get the line pattern designs throughout the polypainting process.
Above is the final result of the character completely polypainted. With the appropriate materials applied.
Heres the final result with a grabdoc from ZBrush with a white background.
And this is the final rendered result with all the passes composited in Photoshop.
Archi Viz: Light & Shadows for Daytime
Dadi Dindul Architectural Visualisation has become a main in the CG industry. Architects, Artists, Builders and many other users have come to see this as means to generate ideas and concepts on the fly than the traditional method of creating physical models. In an ever changing trend and with upgrades being made to the programs used by customers, fundamentals to good visualisation must be known and established. I will not be discussing extensively on lighting in buildings as thats been done already and can be found from various sources using google and a couple of other search engines. What i will be discussing though is how you get the best and most dramatic visual from a camera stand point in the programs you use. What i describe here can be applied to any 3d program but to elaborate better, I will be using Trimble Sketchup for my presentation. For starters, there are a couple of things, that come into play. The principles of architecture play a good role in emphasizing a good visual. These are Order, Arrangement/Balance, Rythm, Symmetry amd Economy. Though it goes to say one may not necessarily be an architect, and so may not have been involved in the design process, the reason for "emphasizing". Understanding some aspects of photography like the Rule of thirds will also help when choosing a good stand point for your building. Below is a residential building from my archive used to elaborate whats been said so far.
Picture 1: For Elevations, the sun position should be kept to Front Left or Front Right of the Building so the forms are appreciated.
Picture 2: A Site plan with a camera placed and the cone of vision shown in Red. This is also known as the camera field of view (FOV) and though its sometimes exaggerated, values betweem 35mm and 55mm work best so the image in question is not distorted.
Picture 3: This shows best views for positioning of the sun based on camera stand point.
Sun Position 1 works well with the camera as theres a good blend of light and shadow on the buildings compostion as seen in Picture 4.
Sun Position 2 doesnt go with the camera as the sun comes from behind hence the view in question will be bathe in light with little or no shadows as in Picture 5.
Sun position 3 also works well and creates that good blend of light and shadow on the building as seen in Picture 6.
Sun position 4's a no-no as its opposite the camera hence the whole view will be in shadows.
Thanks for reading and feel free to mail your questions to me at email@example.com. I'll respond as soon as I can.
My name is Toochukwu Ogbogu, and I was born in Jos, a Northern city of my country Nigeria. While growing up, I had always been fascinated by weird and imaginary characters and creatures, and loved to watch horror movies and TV series such as Jurassic Park, Zelda and also Voltron. It was always surreal to me then as I wondered if these creatures in the movies really existed. I studied Mathematics and Computer science for my Bachelor’s Degree, and it was in my 4th year while on placement at a web design company that I went to see Transformers 1 at the cinemas and my life changed forever. I was both confused and amazed at how robots could interact with humans in real time as if they actually were physically present… I felt like a little boy again while watching that movie. It would be a huge understatement to say that the Transformers movie sparked the desire to learn to “create” my imaginations. From that day onwards, I devoured everything I came across that related to 3D and aspired to achieve such feats as I had seen on the movie screens. I went on to graduate and proceeded to study a Masters course in Animation and Visual Effects at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom. It was in my search for knowledge, that I came across the Animation West Africa Foundation on Facebook - a group for artists in West Africa, by artists in West Africa about to spark off a global interest for their industry. I both inspired and learned from members of the community to improve my art, and we have grown in knowledge and strength over the years. I am currently a freelance creature modeller and match-move artist based in the UK, and I’m so glad I went to see that movie many years ago.
Objective: The Image Flyer is hugely a result of the need to test a pipeline I had in mind, involving the use of multi-tile UVs setup in Zbrush and Mudbox . Most often we are limited to the 0-1 UV space for TV and film work and this often leads to poor texture quality where the generated maps cannot hold up all the details in the 0-1 UV space with fidelity; I also recently fell in love with Mudbox for texturing and map generation and really wanted to see how well it fit in my pipeline for design, and asset creation and thus this test.
The Making of Flyer: I found the reference image of the Flyer on the internet and was inspired to recreate it in 3D. The base mesh was created from a single sphere. I split the vertex at the top pole, moved, extruded, and merged vertices to form the interior and mouth cavity. The tail portion was created by a simple extrude along a spline with a bit of a taper according to the reference image. The modelling was completed quickly as this was not the reason for testing the workflow. The use of GoZ for Maya in pulling and pushing vertices around to realise the overall look and feel of the low base cage greatly shortened the time it took to complete the modelling of the basemesh.. For doing the UVs, I divided the mesh into separate tiles – Head, wings, and tail and laid them out in UV space U1 V1 U2 V1 and U3 V1 according to Mudbox’s UV coordinate naming system (simply so that Mudbox could load the textures automatically) Maya’s UV naming convention is a bit different from Mudbox, and since I planned to texture in Mudbox, and shift the file.2d placement in Maya later on, this wasn’t going to be an issue.
With the Uvs done, It was on to sculpting high resolution details which was done in Zbrush, and this was where the pipeline test began; A test of how was to combine 2 great modeling and texturing applications and achieve fine results. See Image:
With the sculpting done, and the wrinkles and pores sculpted in, I exported the level 5 mesh of about 8 million polys from Zbrush to Mudbox. I then used the Mesh> Reconstruct Subdiv. The â€œRecreate subdivision levelsâ€? is simply a fantastic toolset in Mudbox as it was used to recreate the lower level cages from the high resolution model.
The texturing phase was simply fantastic!! I painted textures using layers with different blending modes and opacities. This to me is where Mudbox stands out from the crowd. I had tested Mari for this same pipeline, but Mudbox simply was more responsive and user friendly and wasn’t too technical in shader construction for new users. I painted in the diffuse, SSS, Veins , opacity, specular, glossiness and a few other control maps for the different parts of the body all in real time. I could visualize the final look of the creature’s colour simply by using the “flat lighting on” in the viewport. This was really important. The ease of use and the ability to create complex textures all layered together in Photoshop style makes Mudbox was an added bonus for me. The responsiveness of the viewport too is just simply a wow factor. I also frequently exported the different layers into Photoshop to tweak and make custom adjustments to better suit my taste and appeal for the creature’s final look. The Hue Shift tool, along with the colour correction tools greatly helped in look development for the creature. I could “mix and match” colours to create different themes quite easily - Another plus for Mudbox. I created blood veins in Maya using the roots paint effects feature which I rendered out as a large still and used to paint on the creature as a stencil on the vein layer. The image below shows the flat lighting and also the standard material with just the diffuse applied.
With the textures all generated, it was time to collapse layers and export the textures out of Mudbox. I duplicated the veins layer and exported that out separately so that I could use that as a control map to limit or
accentuate SSS scattering of light through the blood vessels. The diffuse, specular, opacity, control maps for SSS and displacement maps were thus created and saved - a total of 21 maps at 2k resolution. The displacement maps were in .exr format at 16 bit depth to capture more details than standard compression. It was now into Photoshop to manipulate some textures to create the SSS layers and also combine the cavity and AO maps with the diffuse and veins to create the final look for the skin. With all these done, I moved into Maya and created a Vray SSS material. The trouble here was going to be how to combine the numerous maps generated into 1 shader. Workarounds for this exist on the internet where Mayaâ€™s blend texture node is used. This produced undesirable results. Here is the solution I used: 1. I created the following nodes: 3 file nodes for the 3 displacement
maps, and adjusted the 2d placements, turning the wrap u and v off and shifting the tile placement according to the respective UV space of the texture; then turning the default color to black for the texture in the color balance field. Also, I made sure that the alpha is luminance box is ticked under the file node parameter. This ensures that the displacements work correctly. I then created a +/- average node and connected the various displacement file nodes into the Input 3d of the +/- average node using the connection editor. 1 file for 1 input 3d slot. The next thing was to pipe in the result of this into a luminance node I created, by connecting the out color.input3d to the luminance value if the luminance node. And finally, I created a displacement node, and connected the luminance node to the displacement (either by dragging and dropping or using the connection editor. Both work). At this point, the next and final thing was going to be how to connect this network to the SSS shader in the hypershade. This was easily done by dragging the displacement node into the displacement slot of the Shading group for the Vray SSS material.
A simple test render confirmed all was working. I then added and adjusted Vray displacement and subdivision parameters, and that was the multi tile displacement setup done!! With this, I setup subsurface scattering to my liking, then duplicated the above shading network (up to the luminance node), swapped out the respective displacement maps for the created color maps and worked on from there. This process was repeated to connect all spec, normal and the various black and white control maps ( for subsurface scattering) into the Vray SSS material.
Note: The luminance wasnâ€™t also duplicated because this node converts our RGB information into alpha or luminance which is not our desired result for color maps.
With all these done, it was then on to setting up the lighting and rendering parameters which were pretty simple. 3 rectangular lights of varying intensities and 1 HDR dome light. The Adaptive DMC was used with the number of subdivs cranked up a bit for finer details. Also, the prepass rate for the skin shader was also set to 1 once the final result/test renders were done. In conclusion, this workflow proved to be quite speedy, and provide the means to create really high resolution texture preservation for TV and movie shots, and Mudbox from now on, would definitely be my texturing application of choice. The render setup was pretty basic. I finally want to thank Autodesk Africa for giving me the opportunity to write this short â€œMaking Ofâ€?. It was fun creating the image and also writing about it.
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For this personal project I wanted to work on something with a lot of detail, since I mostly make game art all day. This would be an opportunity for me to try out a lot of new techniques. I was specifically looking to learn an in depth understanding of mental ray, learning to paint a large portion of the image in 2d, and to attempt to texture everything entirely in polypaint in zbrush. I chose to do all textures in polypaint as I wanted a stylized painterly look and photo ref texturing would definitely pull the image away from that. For the actual character in the image, the tribal alien, I had just finished reading Orson Scott Cardâ€™s Speaker for the Dead and so I was inspired to create my own primitive alien race like the â€œpiggiesâ€? in the book.
Rough polygon model. I didn't collect much reference for this project which is unusual; I just started working at a model in 3d Studio Max. I had the final image I wanted fairly clear in my mind at this stage already. I did collect some good examples of well rendered skin shaders and nice lighting treatments as inspiration though. Initial modelling was quite simple low polygon work. Trying to keep the mesh as neat as possible and to keep a quad based layout. I did some very rough sketches of the character and his props on paper just to help me figure out his look. I used these images to finish off the characters low polygon modelling and get him ready for Zbrush. I also laid out his UVs at this stage, keeping all skin textures on one layout and all other props on another UV layout.
Bringing the character model in to zbrush. From here I brought the model into zbrush and subdivided once. Then I started roughing out large form muscle groups such as pectorals, deltoids, glutes and so on. I also added all the other elements of the model such as the eyes and the loincloth as sub tools. From here on I progressed slowly through greater levels of subdivisions to add more detail to the character. I always make sure I am one hundred percent satisfied with the detailing I have worked on before progressing to a new subdivision level. I often only use a few brushes in zbrush for my work. I have them stacked in the lower shelf so they are always there when I need them. I used Clay tubes, clay build up, move tool, flatted, pinch, dam_standard, inflate and slash3 for the sculpting of this character. I mostly used the claybuild-up brush and the move tools to do all the major form sculpting, and then I progressed to the other brushes to start creating fine detail. The standard brush was used to sculpt medium level details, I often load alphas or create my own so I can get nice custom shapes to carve into the sculpt. I used slash3 brush and then followed that up with inflate to create wrinkles with puffy flesh around them. The reverse function of the slash 3 brush (alt) is also a nice way to fill over the edges of these wrinkles. Lastly I added a light layer of skin detail with the standard brush and a selection of skin and scale alpha textures.
Polypaint I started off with filling the entire object with a colour that would be in the middle of the range that I would be texturing in. Then I went into stroke options in Z brush and chose the spray option to mimic an airbrush. I made sure the flow was low and the colour slider was set to zero. If this is not done the colour will vary. Next I started to paint in darker areas and key features such as his fleshy tummy and tried to make his fin elements look somewhat transparent. One of the key things I often do, something I learned when I was an illustrator is to add unexpected colours into the mix to add depth to the paint process. So on warm reddish areas I would add slight hints of blue, purple or even green. I would often add these into areas that would normally be cold on a body, such as large fleshy areas with low circulation. For areas of skin that would stretch over muscle or bone I would make the skin lighter, and add lighter colours such as yellows. I often work on layers so I can switch them on or off, and mix them with the sliders. Once I am happy with the results I collapse all the layers.
Midway through this process I started using the masking options in the tools palette to start masking off peaks and valleys of high detail such as the skin and scales. This way I could use polypaint to paint into the dark areas between scales and pores of the skin to reinforce the earlier skin detailing I had laid out with my alpha textures. Lastly I took the standard brush and put some very fine alpha textures on it. Usually they mimicked a very fine spray or stippling effect and used these to paint very fine variations and anomalies onto the skin so it was not too flat and rubbery looking.
Props For the props I kept it simple. Where they required detailing such as the binding around the flint blades on the spear and knife I modelled these in high polygon detail with the mesh smooth modifier in 3ds Max. Once these where finished I took them into Z Brush and added light detailing and then used the same poly painting process I used above.
Environment and alien flora For the rocks I created a very low polygon object in 3ds Max. I was not too concerned with form or details since I was going to figure out the look of it in Z Brush. I bought the mesh into zbrush and started sculpting the rocks. I used mainly flatten, slash 3, dam standard, clay build up and the trim dynamic brushes for this. I added a lot of alpha detail finally with the standard brush and a number of rock and noise alpha textures. I did a very fast polypaint, using many of the techniques I used for the body, particularly the tool masking options. Finally I baked out the relevant maps; I included a cavity and Ambient occlusion bake into the diffuse texture as well as the green layer from the world space normal map bake to add a little detail as I produced this asset very quickly. For the plants I spent some time drawing designs on paper to figure out how they would look. I wanted them to be a bit crazy and be able to be unique elements in their own right. The process was exactly the same for the character and rocks, just using more flesh friendly brushes such as clay build up, slash 3, inflate and the standard brush with relative fleshy alphas to sculpt them up to a high detail.
Here are the zbrush models of the plants. I made them in separate pieces so I could construct many variants using only a few key elements.
Baking maps and creating textures Now all the sculpting and polypainting was complete I took the high polygon elements into X normal and baked the maps I would need. I baked the high poly vertex colour to diffuse and also a tangent space and world space normal map. I often use the world space RGB layers to help with my texturing a little. No ambient occlusion or cavity maps where baked, I would be relying on mental ray to do that. Next I assembled all the baked textures in photoshop. This was a very quick process as I had intentionally done the majority of the texture work in Z brush. The most important aspects where to clean up any errors in the bake, and make skin layers for the sub surface scattering shader.
Shaders and rigging I exported medium level detail models from zbrush for the render meshes. The skin object for instance was around 26k triangles. For the rig I did not need anything very complicated as my main goal was static rendered stills. I made a simple biped in 3ds Max character studio and rigged a medium level mesh to it with the physiche modifier. I also added some simple morphers to it to add some facial expression, fix mesh errors in the posed view, and and to make the fin elements look floppy. For shaders I went with Mental Ray shaders to go with the render engine. I used the Sub Surface Scattering Fast shader for the skin of the creature, adding the skin textures I had created in Photoshop as the sub dermal layers in the shader. I also added the normal maps and a bump map. Autodesk generic mental ray material was used for the majority of the other shaders. I used Autodesk ceramic for the black eyes material and used my pet hamster as a direct reference for the black eyes. :) Here are two of the shaders used. The skin material and the props material:
Once this was done I started render tests and through trial and error got the materials looking how I wanted them.
Lighting and rendering For the lighting I used a Photometric Lights with disc emitters and uniform spherical degradation as my sun simulators. I then added a series of small Photometric point lights around the scene as kickers to bring out details and light up areas that were getting too dark. I also loaded an HDRI image into the environment to add ambient quality in the lighting and to give reflections to reflective objects such as the eyes. To capture all the bounced photons from the lights I took a cylinder, inverted it and scaled it to encompass my entire scene. This way I could ensure the bounces stayed in the region of the character, would give it depth (as well as bounced light), not end up shooting away and not working as hard as they could be. Next up I added a large plain to the background and gave it a matte/shadow material. This would ensure I got nice clean render layers.
Lastly I added Mental Ray photographic exposure control. I played around with the settings until I got a result that worked. I made sure that the white point was at around 6500.0 kelvin as this is what white light generally burns at. This would ensure my scene would not get any unwanted tinting.
Final composition and background painting For the final composition I started rendering out different elements to layers. I then took these rendered tag files and started to composite them together in Digital Fusion. I rendered the foreground elements into four layers so I could adjust them individually in Fusion.
For the background I relied mostly on painting techniques in Photoshop, but I made sure I had good reference images such as mountains, clouds and planets. Here are some of the reference images I used to paint the alien background, I either used these images directly in my painting process or used them as reference for creating my own new layers of paint.
Here is the result, ready for the final composition. A lot of painting, layers, effects and general tweaking. I often zoom the image out to a very small size, this tells me if it is working well altogether as with digital programs you can often get stuck working on small details and not clearly see the end result too well.
Final image: Once I had assembled all the elements in Digital Fusion I exported the render to Photoshop and did some final touch ups and general painting over of parts I did not like until it was finished.
Thanks! Sam King
About the artist: Sam King has been working in the games film and animated feature industries for close to a decade. He is originally from Cape Town South Africa, but currently works as a senior character artist in London UK for Natural Motion Games. He has worked for clients such as Disney, Blizzard/Activision, Warner Brothers Interactive and Sesame Street.
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