GRIMM Creatures ("morph" time-lapse video added Pg 3)

Hey everyone I’m finally getting around to posting up some of my character work for the NBC series GRIMM.
I’m a character artist at Hive-FX, based in Portland Oregon. www.hive-fx.com
We’ve been working on GRIMM from the start and are deep into Season 2 as I post this.
Specializing in the “morphing” that they use quite a bit for the show.

Starting from a basemesh, I first sculpt the actor or actress using provided reference views. The basemesh itself took a few iterations to get right. Due to deadlines, I rarely have the chance to create custom topology per character (Excluding the Dragon below). So I needed a male and a female I could sculpt into anything they threw at me. I’m now able to pretty successfully take human proportions and push them towards the monstrous fairly quickly. So it’s essentially two finished Morph Targets per character. Point count and UV’s have to stay the same in order for the blend to work. This allows our Animators (Matt Estes & Joel Hasse) to have full control over the morphing in Maya.

I morph them into creatures and monsters on a separate 3D layer. It feels similar to what a Prosthetic makeup artist might go through, except using the power and speed of digital sculpting. I’m usually given a piece of concept art from the very talented Jerad S. Marantz and Constantine Sekeris to work from. But lately the production has been using a lot of prosthetic makeup. So in the case of the Sabertooth I’m working from reference of the prosthetic work used on set. Prosthetic doubles can be tough but I’m usually pretty pleased with how they turn out.

After sculpting the model, it’s sent to our Rigging TD (Tim Callaway), Hair artist (Eric Reed), and Surfacing in V-Ray. The textures are usually created by Karim Moussa (CG Lead) in Mari or in ZBrush by myself. It all depends on what the character needs and how much time either of us have. Texturing for me is like the icing on the cake, I love seeing a characters skin qualities come to life so I try and help as much as I can.
32 bit displacement and 4K textures are the usual suspects for getting all the ZBrush details down the pipeline efficiently.
We usually have ~3 weeks per episode, sometimes less, but depending on the volume of shots it can get pretty crazy. Often overlapping episodes simultaneously.
There has been some long nights in the name of GRIMM that’s for sure, but I feel really fortunate to get to work with such a cool group of artists all day, doing what I enjoy most.


The last image is a direct result of purchasing Paul Gaboury’s book ZBrush Professional Tips and Techniques. The comparison is between SkinShade4 at default with basic lighting on the Left, on the Right is multiple quad-shaders coming together with BPR, Material Blend Radius turned to atleast 15, a studio Lightcap setup built inside of Zbrush without any HDRI sourcing, and finally BPR Filters.
In fact all the images above are straight out of ZBrush 4r3/r4 BPR. Photoshop was only used to frame and bug.

Here’s a timelapse I managed to capture of the full morphing process, I just wish I recorded the actor sculpt before hand as well as the Final ZBrush look-dev to get the images above.
Marnissier the Sabertooth assassin is one of my favorite characters to date!


A special thanks to the ZBC community!!
This place has allowed me to be a self taught ZBrush artist, constantly growing from the amount of raw awesomeness posted on these boards.
I look forward to the future of this community and the new developments Pixologic is sure to dish out!
When I get some free time again I will post up more renders.
Thanks for watching!


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Nice work as always man!

Amazing work Jerod! :+1:small_orange_diamond:+1:small_orange_diamond:+1:small_orange_diamond:+1:small_orange_diamond:D

Lookin good Jerod. I for one would love to know how much of the characters creative interpretation was yours or if you where tasked to create from existing concept art.

Thanks guys, I really appreciate it!

It really varies a lot from character to character. For example for the Dragon I was given a nice piece of concept art to reference as I went.
Usually a 3 Quarter view or Front, never both though. When I have a concept to work from I’m usually let off the leash a bit and it’s my job to interpret how to best incorporate the concept design on top of an existing actors face. The concepts are rarely using the actor’s proportions to build from.

Sometimes requiring the human proportions to shine through, and sometimes completely changing them into monster features.
I have to bounce between workflows a lot because I might be going off a concept for one character, and another character in the same episode might have full on Prosthetic makeup applied that I have to match digitally.
I like working from a concept a lot, it’s awesome to see something come to life in 3D.
But working from a prosthetic reference can be pretty cool too.
I always try and find areas to improve upon since the Digital version will be used for all the close-ups and any Lip-syncing shots.

The last example would be like Captain Renard’s hand renders at the bottom. That was just a go for it kind of scenario where I was briefed on what they were after but wasn’t provided any specific reference.
Hope that’s clear enough…

Great sculpts -> thanks so much for taking the time to do the timelapse :sunglasses:small_orange_diamond:+1: did you use the custom topology on the Dragon to morph between human and Dragon (with layers) ? Would be cool to see that morph though :slight_smile:

Great works dude ! i love the first one !!

Very Nice bro
keep it up

Etcher thanks for stopping by man!
I’m stitching some more timelapses together to share soon.
And I’ll post up a morphing video using layers just for you. The Dragon (Fred) was done back in ZBrush 4r2 I think, so there wasn’t access to the snazzy new topology tools.
He took a lot of pre-planning. I sculpted the actor’s head using my basemesh first. I GoZ’d the model to Maya and began blocking in where the horns would form. Extrude was used heavily to add more and more faces as I went inward. It was tough to figure out how much geometry I would need bunched up in one horn zone to make a successful cone shaped morph both in ZBrush and down the line in production. As well as awkward because I still needed to retain the human forms with all this new dense geometry. After a few failed attempts I got all the horns planned out and the model sent back to ZBrush.
I then had to re-sculpt the actors face in all the newly dense areas, as extruding in Maya tends to flatten everything.
Once I had smooth shapes again, I went on a PolyGrouping spree and made it way easier to work with all the horns areas.

Creating a new layer I started on the Dragon morph.
Masking off everything but what I wanted to work on, and pulling each horn out one by one.
Storing Morph Targets and using the Morph brush to my advantage was pretty pivotal with this guy,
and he easily took the most time in R&D both for me and for our Rigging TD.
He ended up making it so our animators could control the morph in multiple zones, which was REALLY cool.
It’s still easily one of my favorites from Season 1.

Thanks Majid!!

I appreciate that, thank you!

Here are some Production stills that were used for Promo.



I watch this show weekly. Very cool to see the work up close. Its looks even better in stills. I would like to see more assymetric and slower morphs though, were the monster just breaks out of the face. As it is the often too fast and the same between species. The quality of the work as improved as the show has continued and very awesome that your able to do it in 3 weeks.

Does dynamesh or qremesher help with sculpting too?

Really awesome work! Congratulations!

On a side note I was hoping to to meet Jim Clark back in August but I just missed him. I was in LA presenting at Siggraph for MAXON but left the morning of Jim’s talk. You guys at Hive do great work.


Grats on toprow!!!

Hi jBogh,
I love the show and your work on there is amazing. Just carious, since most of the “vesins” morph on the bust/face, are you responsible for creating the bust or do you create the whole character. Thanks for posting, very inspirational and I can’t wait to see more (of the show and your work.)

superb work!! :+1:

Amazing work!! I love it!! Thanks for sharing this art.

Cheers from Barcelona!

Very Good!!!

Hell, that timelapse video was plain fun to look at!
Thank you very much for sharing.

The way you used Paul’s technique of inserting mesh shapes on the face is done so well! I appreciate how well you made the teeth-like spurs on the sides of the face. And the beard of pointed teeth-like barbs are really well thought out and executed. Thank you for sharing all these shots. They are great to see.

Wow… Top Row is such a huge honor for me!! Thanks for the support everyone!
I will be adding more soon.

Glad you’ve been able to see the improvements as our pipeline has progressed along with the show!
Yeah I actually use Dynamesh and Qremesher a lot now. Mainly for Teeth and Fingernails when I need them.
Due to the way our pipeline is set up I stay away from drastic topology changes when ever possible though,
so Dynamesh and QRemesher get more attention in my personal work that’s for sure!
Thanks for watching!

Josh sorry we missed you! Thanks for the kind words!!

Thanks buddy!!

Thank you so much!! I’d say 75% of the time I’m working on busts.
There have been a handful of characters that have needed the entire Upper Torso w/arms.
I do end up sculpting a lot of hands cut off about mid-way up to the elbow though.
Much in the same way I approach the facial morphs. Sculpting the human hand first
from reference, then adding a Creature Layer on top that we can morph between.

I really appreciate that, thank you!

Thanks Uruk!!


Knacki, I appreciate the kind words!
The timelapse took ~4 nights to put together after work, I’m really glad to hear people enjoying it.
I was worried at first because it was originally 20 minutes of footage (already sped up from zbrush)
I knew I needed about half that length to get people to actually finish it.
Rather than cutting anything out, I upped the speed by 200%, which worked out pretty well with my music
of choice.

Thanks!! I still have a lot to share!!