The Action Hero Contest may be over, but we're not done bringing you good stuff from it! This week is the third of five "Making Of" articles from the top winners, highlighting pitchepuck and his creation: HedgeHog. Martin's WIP thread can be viewed HERE. Now we're pleased to be able to bring you a detailed walkthrough of his techniques as he worked on our Second Prize winner. Martin's approach was a bit different, since he actually posed his character early in production. Also, the materials that he includes here give great info relating to lighting in ZBrush.
When I started the concept I thought about a typical old school hero design in MARVEL style. He should become a realistic style like the actual movie heroes, too. Then I thought about his theme. I wanted to take a pet symbol like Batman, Spiderman...
I don´t know why I got the hedgehog in mind but this pet was never used as a hero theme exept for video game figures. With this theme it was easy to work out the design. I took the typical hedgehog design elements for the first concept ideas like color, quills and skin structure. But the design was not complete with this beginning! I wanted to further develop it during the sculpting process.
I took my standard basemesh for human bodies with which I start most of my human sculptings. It was originally built with ZSpheres. Then I rough sculpted to redo the topology in ZBrush, except for the fingers which I extruded in 3ds Max.
Before I started to build the suit parts and armor parts I had to do the first sculpting on the body base to get the right proportions. After that I began to build the other parts like chest armor, mask, gloves, boots and belt. All these parts were created with the Retopology feature on the body base. I drew the new meshes for all parts and gave them thickness.
For some details on the boots, belt and glove-armor I used 3ds Max to extrude some poly areas. After that I reimported these base meshes back to ZBrush.
The quills and eyes were made from ZBrush´s standard parametric objects.
I did most of the detailing after posing the body. Before posing I only did low detailing on all parts.
First of all it was necessary to get important rough details with symmetry on the face and body. All the fine details like folds on the suit and the fine structures and stitches were sculpted later.
The pictures show the details I sculpted before posing the body.
The symbol on the chest armor was created with an Alpha Mask. This Alpha texture was created ahead of time in an external graphic program and then imported into ZBrush.
The wood color and structure of all armor parts was projected. I put a Plane with the wood texture behind the armor SubTools and then used the ZProject brush (with Zadd turned off!) to transfer the color. To give it a structure I used the Auto-Mask option of "Mask By Saturation".
Posing was quite easy. I had the exact pose just in mind so I didn´t need to make more than one.
I didn´t need to rig the body with ZSpheres. Most of the posing I did with the Transpose Master. It is important to make a lot of Polygroups, especially on the hands and fingers. This makes it easier later on when the fingers are close to each other, because with the Polygroups you are still able to mask them separately.
After posing was done I did some corrections on the body and started sculpting final details. (This was the point where I thougt the contest would be almost over. But I had actually one month left!) Now it was time to pose all the quills on his back and arms. I had enough time left to think about new details like the leather-tapes and other little stuff. And I had a lot of time for the base!
For the sculpting I used several brushes. I did most body corrections with the Move or Elastic brush. The folds were sculpted mostly with the Standard brush and a different Alpha (Alpha 39) on it. The stitches were sculpted with the Stitch3 brush and the LazyMouse function.
Some of the stitch lines were made with a custom-made Alpha consisting of a single stitch.
It is helpful to draw the stitchlines on the body before sculpting it. This makes it easier to find the way and you can adjust the positions before sculpting.
The suit structure was sculpted with one standard Alpha (crossed lines) for the leather-look and one custom-made Alpha for the textile parts. Notice that most of the fine structures were done after the main sculpting was finished.
Colors and Materials
During the whole sculpting process I was also searching for the right color design. I tried several approaches and different combinations of materials an colors. I think this is important because both combine together to cause the final surface expression.
The skin color was taken from a photo reference. I painted the face with the ZProject brush.
The leather suit was painted with several techniques. First I put a base color on it. Then I worked out the fine structure a bit. This was done with the automask function "Mask By Cavity" to darken the surface structure-depths a bit. Then I highlighted the higher edges with a brighter basic tone. Finally I toned down the lower surface areas to fake a little ambient occlusion. All this was done with the Standard brush and several Alphas on it.
The materials were all standard materials. I didn`t use any MatCap materials, which usually look better at first but cause some problems with lighting. (They all have a light map which makes it hard to play around with light settings.) On the other hand, the standard materials are directly affected by the lights, and in fact all in the same way! So, in my opinion don´t use MatCaps.
Sculpting the Base
I wanted to create a street-fighting scene with typical elements from his area in Tokyo. I also wanted it to look dirty and wet like typical fighting scenes from dramatic movies.
First I researched pictures of Tokyo´s streets. Unfortunately I couldn´t find a picture of a manhole cover, so I took a European one. The fire hydrant is an original one from Tokyo.
The manhole cover was first sculpted separately with Radial Symmetry on a Plane3D primitive. Then it was projected on the ground. This gave me the possibility to search for the right position without getting an extra SubTool and a higher polycount in the end.
The water plane was not projected because of its different material.
For the street structure I used an imported Alpha texture.
The bottle and the hydrant were built with ZBrush´s default 3D primitives as you can see in the pictures.
The lighting was very important for me, so I spent a long time testing out the lights. In the end the scene got four lights.
It's important to know that the light positions are fixed relative to the canvas-space. This means that the lights stay when you move the object on-screen. Because of that I had to find the final position for Hedgehog before I posed the lights.
I positioned the lights using the "placement" option, except for the Sun light. You can see all custom-made settings for each light in the pictures.
The render settings were just the standard settings. I only used some dark fog in the back - that´s all.
We would like to thank Martin for his participation in the contest, and taking the time to put this article together. Watch over the next couple weeks as we bring you the final two top entries in our countdown to the Grand Prize winner. There's still a lot of great info on the way!
Be sure to also check out our many past interviews, which can be found in the ZBrush Artist Interviews forum.