AnimSchool Fantasy Character WIP - Long Tran
I thought it would be fun to make up my concept for this contest. That way I could myself some freedom to continue exploring the character's design in the sculpting stage rather than trying to nail the reference. After spending a bit of time sketching out some characters ideas I eventually landed on a elf warrior partially-inspired by Joan of Arc. Below is my "final" concept.
Some Zbrush progression shots:
1) Blocking in the general proportions. I didn't have her scale locked in yet so I made short and tall versions to compare.
2) I choose to go with the shorter version at this point and started to block in the various elements of the costume. I thought the profile view was looking okay but wasn't happy with how it was looking from the front.
3) I tweaked the proportions to make her a bit taller and continued to refine the head shape. I also started to put in a bit more detailing to the costume.
Lots of refinement left to do but I'm feeling better about where it's heading.
Back to Zbrush to continue the hi-poly sculpt for various pieces of the the outfit. Still lots of refinement and adjustments left to make before I retopologize and UV the rest of the costume. I'm thinking next I'll do the some pose tests before I finalize the armor pieces to ensurethey make sense (i.e. they are practical) when she is moving. The retopologized body will come handy for that.
Phew! Finished with the retopology, UVing and baking. Finally onto having some fun texturing.
All the retopology was done in Maya. I briefly experimented with doing it in Zbrush using the Zmodeler brush since there were some new features released in the 2021 version that improved the retopo abilities but ended going back to good ol' Quad Draw in Maya.
Baking was done in Marmoset Toolbag 3. The easily configurable bake group, map preview and spot adjustments are a lifesaver!
looks pretty clean 🙂
Staring at the character in an A pose for so long can get pretty stale after a while so I decided to do some pose tests, which was a refreshing break from modeling and texturing. I found being able to explore the personality and attitude of the character through the poses was a lot of fun. I still have work left to do in the texturing of the character and refining the overall color pallete of the character costume and hair but it was helpful to get a better idea of the final render image(s) at this point.
I wanted to experiment with alternative methods of posing other than the tposemesh workflow in zbrush so I used this as an opportunity to experiment with adding a quick rig to my character. I initially used Adobe Mixamo to get a simple skeleton rig but then found that I wanted to adjust more elements of the character. As a result I decided to try using Advance Skeleton. The rig setup took a bit of trial and error but eventually I got a serviceable body and even a face rig that let me have a lot of control in posing the character. I wasn't too clean or precious with the geometry in the posing since the idea was to just explore the character's personality and get a clearer idea of the direction I want to head towards for the final render.
love the posing, it looks so clean man 😀
Thanks @ferruiz97 🙂
I got a lot done over the past week so I'll be posting some WIP catch up posts. From my pose tests above I decided to go with the battle stance on the bottom left since I wanted to show the tough side of the character. With that I exported the posed geo from my rigged character over to Zbrush for clean up and some hi-poly refinement. Here is the end result of that:
I originally planned on making this a real time character for presentation in Marmoset Toolbag 3 but then I decided I wanted to get more experience using Arnold in Maya. I've never tried the Substance Painter to Arnold workflow before so I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn. Changing my approach also exposed me to using displacements maps for the first time. It took a lot trial and error but I'm glad I decided to try a new approach as I learned a lot that I hope to carry into future projects.
Now that I had my posed character ready to go, I wanted to solidify the lighting and camera placement in my Maya scene. I didn't have my textures finalized at this point since I wanted to make sure they would look good under the final lighting and I figured that it would take some back and forth between Maya and Substance Painter.
Below is how my I initially set up my lights. I watched various photography on youtube and tried to implement the light sculpting techniques I learned. The overall approach was the classic three light (key, fill, rim) setup but I used multiple instances of fill and rim light to light the model strategically to keep the focal point on the face and upper body.
While I was putting together my light setup I had the idea to make have both the gem in her waistbelt and the sword emit a glow and be a source of light visible within the scene itself. This was something I had not planned out in my original design but I thought that visually linking the gem/sword would help add to the fantasy element of the character design. With that in mind I added additional lights to my scene to create the glow effect. I also had to rework my textures to incorporate the design change.
This is a screenshot of the added lights for the blade and gem. I wanted to maintain full control of the glowing light and make sure that it wouldn't overpower the lighting I had on the face of the character as that was what I wanted to keep as the focal point of the image. I set a light in the back to create a rim effect on the blade and the top of the handle and hands. A light from the front to control the overall brightness of the blade that was facing the camera and a light coming from the blade to cast a glow onto the character's face. For the gem light, I used a point light and then added a light blocker to minimize the light shining backwards onto the body.
Just for fun here are some render mishaps. Incorrectly plugged in displacement maps = nightmare fuel 😖. Since this was my first time using this workflow, problems like this happened quite often. Very frustrating when you planned on making progress but have to end up spending the whole session troubleshooting errors. At least I can avoid some of these rookie mistakes in my next project!
After a lot of trial and error I was finally starting seeing the finish line. To keep myself from getting lost too in the woods I started generating a render at the end of each session and then look it over every which way and jot down notes to address during the next session. One last major change was that I decided to reposition the camera upwards just a bit to help accentuate the angle make the pose a bit more dynamic. I lengthen the blade of the sword as well in order to make it not be even with the top of the head. The rest of the adjustments were very small tertiary level detail changes like fabric grain and small lighting adjustments.