Learn how to shoot your Clone Trooper

3D generalist Nicolas Brunet shares how he puts together a finished image using Photoshop

For this piece I went back to an old sculpt I made of Commander Kuro after he shot to fame in his role in the fan film Star Wars: The Way to Shadows. I will show you it's not necessary to render a perfect model for static image purpose; with the help of multiple render passes and image editing softwares we'll add details and fix mistakes from the rendering process. Also, I will have a quick look at shooting 360° HDR images.

Shoot the model

For this project I used a very old 3D model of a clone trooper I made a few years ago. The character was created in 3ds Max and was already fully rigged. Once I found the perfect heroic pose, I fixed some skinning mistakes with the help of mesh select, edit poly and relax modifiers on problematic areas of the model.

Shaded model before mesh issues fixed

Shaded model before mesh issues fixed

360° HDRI Shooting

As I wanted very diffuse mood light and shadows, with strong reflections, I used the HDRi way to light up the scene. I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 with a fisheye lens on a panoramic head to quickly capture a forest environment. Depending on the stitching software you use, you'll need more or less overlap between photos to avoid manual stitching post work.

<h5>Top: Shooting material - Middle: a picture taken every 30° + zenith and nadir pictures - Bottom: Result</h5>

Top: Shooting material - Middle: a picture taken every 30° + zenith and nadir pictures - Bottom: Result

Render time

My camera could shot up to 7 stops of light I merged together with HDR Fusion function in Photoshop and exported the result as an EXR file. As the render engine for the project was iRay, the 360° HDRi was loaded as environment map in 3ds Max. Then I rendered out several passes: Raw/beauty, a sharp and glossy reflection and finally a chrome shader applied to the whole mesh gave the "T1000" pass.

Arch & Design shaders were used

Arch & Design shaders were used

Cleaning mistakes and adding details

Before loading all the passes in the composited image, I took some time to erase mistakes from bad unwrapping which had resulted in ugly texture distortions. Details were added using custom brushes, metal chips, dirt and scratches, that way the trooper's armour and weapon give the feeling they have been in many wars.

Left: an unwrapping artist you probably wouldn't want to hire / Right: fixed textures

Left: an unwrapping artist you probably wouldn't want to hire / Right: fixed textures

Deeper but subtle details

Before leaving the paint process, always have a think if you can add more details without crushing what you've already done so far. That render was created to be featured as a printable magazine cover therefore I thought adding subtle details like tileable leather and dust/grunge textures would give more life to the armour and gloves. You can do that on masked layers using soft light or overlay transfer mode.

Be creative in your overlay texture choice, seamless & tileable maps are not always necessary

Be creative in your overlay texture choice, seamless & tileable maps are not always necessary

Adding highlights

With the clean model I went about adding the different reflection passes I rendered earlier – this adds more contrast to the image. The three reflection layers were set to add transfer mode, using masks I could tell the software where I wanted sharp or glossy reflections, focusing on geometry edges to age the models.

The different reflection passes with masks applied

The different reflection passes with masks applied

Final touches

For the last part of the process I use After Effects; I added grain, vignette, chromatic aberrations, colour correction, and a light glow to give the feeling of a real picture. Never exaggerate the use of these effects; you don't want to ruin your images with unwanted lens flares and extreme chromatic aberrations. The time passed on the post work = the time I didn't spend during the render process, iRay allows you to quickly get what you want.

I hope this article was useful and I'd like to thank 3dtotal team for letting me share my work on their website!

<h5>Final image</h5>

Final image

Related links

Check out more of Nicolas's amazing work on his website
Grab your copy of Anatomy for 3D artists
For your chance to win one of our exclusive resin models submit your artwork to our gallery

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