Every so often we like to highlight a member of the ZBC community. There are an amazing number of astonishingly talented artists among us, and some in particular stand out for their generosity. These people constantly share new work, explore or discover aspects of ZBrush use, and participate in the community.
This week we've interviewed David Giraud (known here at ZBC as Lil'sister). A perusal of his ZBC Gallery (after clicking the link, click the orange arrow) shows tremendous attention to detail, and absolute mastery of the human form. David was also one of the beta testers for ZBrush 3, and his efforts have helped make ZBrush 3.x what it is today.
Note: The ZBC Gallery link above will take you to the many WIP threads that David has contributed. This is a great way to learn more about David's techniques. To see his favorite finished works, please click on the thumbnails at the end of this interview.
I'd like to begin by getting to know you a bit better. Could you tell us more about yourself?
I was born in France in 1975, I moved to Montréal in 1991 (living in North America was a childhood dream for me). I then traveled around North America for about four years. I finally came back to Montréal in 1996 to learn CG and I got my first job in 1997. I started as a background/character artist and animator; I then became a character concept artist but I quickly specialized in 3D characters and textures. I then worked on the characters of the first Splinter cell, and right after that I became the lead on the characters of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Then I moved to Denmark to work on Hitman contracts and became the lead character artist on Hitman: Blood Money. I returned to Ubisoft Montréal 2 years ago to work on the Assassin's Creed as a senior character artist. (Our video interview with Ubisoft is available below.)
What does a typical workday involve?
At the beginning of a new mandate, I would receive a concept or a character description in certain cases. I search for references to really understand the clothing and gear as well as the background of the character to translate that information into his appearance. When I know where I'm going with it I start my basemeshes in 3ds Max and I create some really clean UVs with no distortion.
I then import it into ZBrush to create all the details and some of the textures. Then I import everything back into Max to make my shaders and render the high-res for approval. (The high-res has to be approved before starting the low-res of course.) Finally I create the low-res in Max and I bake the textures with render to textures (our character DT on AC made a really neat script to simplify its use). Of course the process takes about 2 weeks in average.
The graphics for Assassin's Creed look absolutely amazing. Has ZBrush had a lot to do with making that level of realism possible?
ZBrush was the most essential tool in my opinion. We used zbrush 2 on Assassin’s Creed, but on the new project I work on I use zbrush 3.1 and it’s really the greatest evolution possible. I pose every character I create now; it really gives us an edge to be able to show characters with attitude and emotions instead of a neutral t-stance. I also use the layers all the time and I started to do a lot of custom brushes (which saves a lot of time). I am now able to explore a lot of different aspects of the characters like the facial expressions.
About what percentage of your work involves ZBrush? How do you use ZBrush in your work?
It use to be like 50% ZBrush/50% 3ds max for the modeling. Now it’s close to 95% ZBrush. I use much lighter base meshes around 2000 polys for a whole body and I subdivide it around 7 times or more. I also use colorize all the time to create all kinds of masks that I can keep. I even do my bases for my textures with colorize. I use a lot of the matcaps made by Ralph Stumpf and others in the community. They really help me to visualise my models in a more effective manner and sometimes previsualize some of my future shaders in mental ray.
How long have you been using ZBrush?
I started to use ZBrush 2 the first day it was released. I had pre-ordered it for me and my whole team. It was what I had been waiting for ever since I got in the CG business, and coming from a traditional artist background it was really the answer to my prayers. I just knew that my work would never be the same again and that it would make a revolution in the CG industries in general. Since then it proved to be even more of a revolution than I had anticipated! I actually started a new personnal project involving 3D printers (rapid prototyping), and I started a new collaboration with an incredibly talented 2d artist. I’m planning on doing a lot of experimenting but I’ll keep you guys posted really soon!
What inspired you to learn ZBrush?
I just wanted to sculpt, and not have to push polygons all my life! LOL
What is your favorite feature in ZBrush 3?
Like I said above TransPose, 3D Layers, PolyPaint, the custom brushes and so many features that I’m discovering day after day.
Do you have any tips that you can share with the ZBrush community?
Get some good anatomy books. Practice, practice, practice! Don’t reuse the same base all the time as they can be constraining after a while. Instead, restart your models; that’s how you learn and get better. Bottom line is work hard and have fun. Use a lot of references. Keep a child’s eye and rediscover what surrounds you!
Looking at your ZBC gallery, you've shared images of Venom and Iron Man. Are you a big comics fan?
Yes I’m a huge comic book fan. Japanese, American , European, movie animation -- everything goes, but I really wanted to be a Marvel comic artist. (I still want to get involved with them one day.)
What artists particularly inspire you?
There are so many amazing artists with so many different and interesting styles! I’m really open to a lot of different art from renaissance to comics to art toys etc… But I guess my first big inspiration in the CG world was Steven Stahlberg in 1996. Now there are so many people I admire. I had the incredible chance to work with and meet some incredibly talented people, like Fausto De Martini recently at Adapt Montreal where we were both speakers. I really admire and respect artists that share and learn from others and try new things.
As a professional game artist, you've got a job that many people would kill for. What advice can you give for someone wanting to get into the industry?
Work really hard and learn to work with others. It’s like a war out there, and you want to have your friends with you on the battlefield. But seriously, keep an open mind and never be satisfied with yourself (or not for long). Stay humble and eager to learn.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Free time what does this mean??? I have a 15 months old daughter and a wife that I adore and a lot of crazy projects in my head. I’m trying to do all of it and on top of that I’m a gamer so my nights are short. LOL
David Giraud's Artwork
Click each thumbnail to view the full image.
Watch Pixologic's Video Interview with Ubisoft