Making Of '65 MYA'
Hello, my name is Vlad Konstantinov and I would like to share with you the creation of my latest work. Thanks to all those of you who commented on this artwork with compliments and critiques - your opinions are very important to me and I of course give a hearty thanks to everyone who has helped me. I could not reach these results without you.
I have always been fond of dinosaurs since my childhood, and likewise I always wanted to create a model of a dinosaur in 3D. I was impressed by the Jurassic Park movies and later found out that the dinosaurs were made with the help of computers. From that moment on, much of my time was dedicated to CG, which is now both my hobby as well my work. Recently, I decided to return to my childhood dreams and make them come true - but enough about my childhood, let's move onto the description of the creation of this image (Fig.01).
First of all I'd like to tell you about one of my big mistakes - never repeat it: always start your work from sketches and concepts. This is very important and a useful part of any work. It will allow to you to spend your time efficiently and correctly. Don't be lazy! Spend your one or two days making sketches and exploring your ideas. If you don't, you could find yourself losing many weeks in front of your computer correcting mistakes and making new ones. Only start work on your 3d creation once you've planned your scene.
I didn't plan at first to create a landscape with a dinosaur, but rather just a dinosaur alone. After finishing work on my T-Rex I realised that it was not enough and so I then decided to make an environment. I won't describe the workflow of modelling the T-Rex because that's another story which demands even more explanation - in this making of article I'm going to focus on the environment. The primary goal for me was to create a reconstruction of the T-Rex which was as close as possible to the real thing. Because of this intention, during the modelling progress I always used references, photographs and even consulted experts in palaeontology.
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Modelling was done in 3ds Max; for detailing I used ZBrush; textures were painted in Photoshop; and rendering of the dinosaur only was done using Brazil (Fig.02 - 03).
In creating the environment I wanted to do same thing as with the dinosaur itself - not create just a simple landscape, but a reconstruction of a landscape that a dinosaur would have dwelled in. I chose some elements for the composition and decided on a frame where the T-Rex would cross a river. Right from the beginning I had known that I would not create a dynamic and magnificent image, I simply wanted my final image to be fit for an illustration in an encyclopaedia. I wanted to show a simple and natural moment of life 65 million years ago. My big mistake here (as mentioned before) was only to make a simple line sketch before starting to model. You'll see why it was such a mistake later on in the modelling process.
Trunks and branches were made by hand in 3ds Max, ZBrush and Photoshop (Fig.04).
Ferns were simple planes with textures with an alpha-channel. I also used an ivy-generator for the ivy, and the TreeStorm plugin for the palm trees (Fig.05).
I created all the vegetation on the first and second planes (Fig.06).
I decided not to use Brazil here and instead switched to V-Ray, because the scene was very "heavy" for my computer. I used VRay-proxy for some objects, and also the VRayDisplacementMod was very useful for me, too. For the lighting I applied a combination of the DaylightSystem, VRaySun and VRayPhysicalCamera (Fig.07).
I then tried to find a more interesting pose and viewpoint for my dinosaur (Fig.08). And here is viewport (Fig.09).
At this stage I had already realised that the composition and concept of my picture were incorrect. The work was too simple and not interesting. And it was at this moment that I had a problem. My computer could not render more objects and textures, which is why I went on and continued my work in Photoshop only. So I rendered Ambient Occlusion, ZDepth and an alpha-channel in 3ds Max, and then used the different combinations of these maps for the creation of the atmospheric effects in Photoshop.
First I added the sky and the forest in the background (Fig.10).
I then painted some reflections on the water and added several tropical trees which I took from photos (Fig.11). During the work I always played with gamma and tried to select the best variant.
Some of my friends told me that they found sky too grey and very simple, and so I made some changes to it (Fig.12).
I later added more detail, such as pterosaurs in the sky, the tree on the left and the lizard on the trunk. The image of the tree and of the lizard I took from photos, and the pterosaurs were painted by hand in Photoshop. I also added some small details here (like making the dinosaur legs look wet, for example) (Fig.13).
All this time, I was continuing to work with the lighting and colour gamma (Fig.14).
I didn't like the cover of the trunks in my picture and so I tried to correct it by hand by painting cracks and general roughness in Photoshop (Fig.15).
At this stage I had already represented how the final image would look, and I could tell with confidence that the work was doomed to be a failure. The picture looked lifeless and the composition looked unbalanced - all because I was too lazy to spend more time working with sketches at the beginning. It was therefore necessary to change the concept of the picture at this stage and to think about how to get rid of the problems in the image.
The simple and effective decision came from one of my friends. He suggested that I add a flock of small dinosaurs running away from the T-Rex. This was a great idea! Such an element was able to add more life into the picture and moreover did not change its basic concept. For these small dinosaurs I chose Ornithomimids. I painted them in Photoshop, and added some splashes and waves on the water to describe the movement (Fig.16).
With this change done, I still felt that the composition looked unstable, and it was at this moment that I realised the mirror when flipped horizontally looked much more interesting and dynamic (Fig.17).
So I flipped the image and added some deeper shadows, finishing up some details like duckweed, moss and more appreciable waves on the water (Fig.18).
A coniferous tree branch in the top right corner of the image was added to counterbalance the overloaded left-hand side, and this was the last element added to the scene to complete the image (Fig.19).
And that's all! I would like to admit that I was lucky with this image and had the opportunity to correct my error. However, such an opportunity doesn't always occur, and so I would once again like to mention the importance of the pre-production period.
Thanks for your attention; I hope this article has been interesting for you to read. Many thanks!
To see more by Vlad Konstantinov, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection