Making Of 'Annie'
Hi, my name is Florian Falcucci and I am a CG graphic artist who's been living in Paris for the last year. For this character, the idea was to create a character in a cartoon style with a good charisma. A strong, successful woman who does not let itself be pushed around. And I love the period of the early 1920's-30's American aviation, with Amelia Eckhart, so that's what I decided to go with. The objective was to create an illustration with a single character, discover new methods and find the best workflow. I suppose parts of my workflow are not very classical, but they worked for me.
References / Modeling
I'm not a designer, so I gathered together a lot of references for creating this character (Fig.01). I know how the character was going to be built and the style I would give her, but I began the modeling using classic references to help with the proportions and I transformed this base into my final character.
I modeled the character in 3ds Max in a neutral pose so that I would have a fast setup for the posing (Fig.02). I don't like modeling the pose directly in Max because it's then difficult to step back and correct any errors that show up later in the creation process.Â
I prefer to begin with the head because it's the most important part of a characters; it's what we look at first. The rest of the body comes naturally.
I added some base colors to the mesh to give me ideas for the final character (Fig.03). The accessories were built to give extra details and enrich the character.
Posing / ZBrushing
Okay so at this point I had a good base for the character. Before moving on to posing, I unwrapped the UVs (Fig.04). The body/face was separate from the other elements, the same as the accessories. As I wasn't going to use the final image for animation, I decided to separate the parts to have the best quality rendering possible.
For the posing I used a script in Maya: AbAutorig. It's very easy to use and the posing is done in one afternoon, with a classic skinning. I broke the setup when the posing was definitive and I refined small parts of the model (Fig.05).
This character gave me the opportunity to discover ZBrush. I wanted to add more details to the pants and jacket, and ZBrush was the best solution to get the little creases. I didn't want a realistic effect, but just enough to give more consistency. I exported the ZBrushing in a .TIFF file, for use as a displacement map. The maps were 4096 resolution and I exported the low poly mesh from ZBrush to get a mesh more suitable for displacement. The modifier Displace from Max worked perfectly for this job (Fig.06).
Now I had the principal elements, I began texturing. Because the character wasn't going to be used in an animation, I was able to use big, multiple textures and get some great details. I separated the body (Fig.07), the pants (Fig.08), the jacket (Fig.09), the glasses and the other elements like buttons, pockets and the belt. I baked the parts of my character with the Render to Texture option. It is very useful for providing details in the textures. For this I baked an Occlusion, which I then added to my .PSD files. This gives the indications of shadows and the distance between elements.
For simple organization, I used a Multi-Subobject for the texturing (Fig.10).
The face was very simple (Fig.11). It is the base of painting with degraded, and some details like freckles. I began to create the shade of eyes with a ramp, but it was simpler to create a .tga file and it allowed me to add more details. The eyes are maybe the most important in the character; it is the first part that we look at.
The jacket was more difficult (Fig.12). I wanted the best way to render a leather style, but the jacket still had to feel like it was worn. I mixed different textures together, using photographs, to give interesting shading and with the displacement, "feel the leather". I used the same shader for elements like the pocket and belt, but with a slight difference in color to inject details.
The pants were simple (Fig.13). In my references, the pants of the aviator were just fabric and seams. The baking of the mesh allowed me to give a degraded feel. I was not decided on the color of the pants at this point. As you can see in Fig.13, I tried out different color passes before I found that worked - a classical color, but also one that fitted with the color of the jacket.
The lighting was very simple (Fig.14). I used two principal V-Ray lights, one in front and one to the right, and a rim light to the left. I added another light on top to create dense shadows and the same for the back of the character. I also added two spots to create the specular of the eyes, with an exclude. The shadows are in normal resolution, with no particular option selected.
Render / Compositing
I used V-Ray for the render, but it was very simple. I just added more antialiasing, activated the GI and the result was very convincing. I rendered some passes for the compositing Fig.15: a pass of GI, Occlusion, Lighting, Shadows, Specular and a cache for works the background. The beauty pass was the final pass and I used it in the compositing stage to add more details.
The compositing was done in Photoshop, and I rendered the background too with the shadow of the character. I made the background separately and got a good result (Fig.16).
After this I added the passes of my character (Fig.17). I modified the contrast and saturation, the color correction and others parameters to achieve the final result (Fig.18).
Creating this character was a good experience. I'm sure I could create another, similar character more quickly now, but with pro work to do at the same time, it is not easy. But I will continue to do personal projects because I think it's important to have the possibility there.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me. Thanks for reading!