Making Of 'Baby Satyr'
Sometimes I start to work with a concept in mind; sometimes I have no idea and just start to work. In this case it was a second option. I started doodling in Photoshop with no purpose, and then some thoughts about forests, night and live trees started to occupy my mind. At some point I even figured out a tree with a face.
I then got distracted from that concept, because it looked too obvious to me and I kept searching until the idea of a sleeping baby satyr under the tree appeared. How I did that? It's just like when we stare at the clouds and see different shapes within them (Fig.01).
After I had a concept I made a sketch in 3D. I created very basic geometry to represent the actual objects, and tried out some different camera angles and lighting setups. At this stage I was able to deviate from the initial concept to find a more interesting execution or new idea. Also I tried to keep everything undefined for some time, because when something is done, my mind just sticks to that and it is hard to imagine that the character or scene could look another way. Distinctness locks the imagination.
On the technical side, I used V-Ray for rendering, planes in place of bushes, trees exported from OnyxTree, roots from splines and the basic model of the satyr was modeled quickly in ZBrush. Poses for my characters are always done with the Transpose tool in ZBrush. The creation of a scene of this kind takes no more than few hours and saves a lot of time in the future, because you don't need to worry that much about composition and lighting when you keep going through to the final modeling and texturing (Fig.02).
I liked everything at this stage, so let's move on. I changed the proportions of the satyr and added some details to him. The previously created splines, which symbolized roots, I converted in geometry and exported them with the tree trunk into ZBrush. After that I attached the roots to the tree trunk with retopology. I finally added details to it with standard ZBrush brushes and a few homemade alphas (Fig.03).
To add bushes, again I exported them from OnyxTree. I then adjusted the materials; instead of standard leaves for the tree I used planes with textures, with the Vray2SidedMtl material. In Fig.04 you can see the actual settings of material. The front and back materials were identical.
The subdivision number for the reflections was set to 4, because there were lots of leaves in the scene and the quality of reflection on them was not crucial. These kind of small things help to save time on the render.
Vray2SidedMtl works perfectly with different thin objects that have SSS: a sheet of paper, cloth, a lamp shade, etc (Fig.05).
Then I cleaned up the character's pose and added more detail. The fur and grass was done with 3ds Max's Hair & Fur. Also I replaced the bushes in the foreground.
To grow fur I used a low poly version of the satyr as a hair placeholder. In the properties of this model I unchecked the Renderable checkbox in order to hide the hair placeholder from the render. Why did I use a low poly version of the character to grow the hair? Guides for hair grow from vertices of the object. So when there are lots of vertices it becomes hard to handle guides and adjust the direction of hair growth (Fig.06).
Two more tips for working with Hair & Fur are as follows:
I urgently recommend turning off the checkbox Tip Fade in the Hair & Fur setting Material rollout while you're adjusting hair. Turn it on for the final render. Why do it? Tip Fade makes hair transparent towards its tip. This option make hair looks more realistic, and the overall feel of the hair is much softer, but the render time increases very badly.
Hair & Fur's tip and root color in the Material rollout affects applied texture. So if you want to use a texture for the hair color, change the tip and root color to white. Otherwise the applied texture will give the wrong colors.
As you can see I developed the whole image uniformly. I didn't break the whole process into defined blocks like modeling, texturing, rendering, etc. Every aspect has its influence on the others, so working this way gives you greater control over the image. I've tried to work in a linear manner (modeling-texturing-visualization) in the past and it leads to a lot of corrections and loss of time.
Once the modeling was done, I adjusted the materials and lighting. In ZBrush the final scene looked like Fig.07 and in 3ds Max it looked like Fig.08.
The main pass was a very simple setup: one target spot with the VrayShadow and Area Shadow checkbox on (Sphere 5cm), and GI on. Primary bounces for Global illumination was set to Irradiance map and Secondary bounces was set to Brute force. All the settings were default. To add a tiny light from the sky I changed the color of the GI Environment (skylight) override to a dark, non-saturated blue color in the V-Ray > Environment rollout.
Besides the main pass, I rendered a volume light pass. It is also easy to produce: apply a material with a pure black color to all the objects in the scene, then go into the Environment menu Atmosphere rollout and add a volume light effect. In the settings of this effect pick the light that you want to produce the volume light. A few notes before you hit Render: the volume light effect only works with direct, spot and omni lights, and shadows of the light source should be set to Shadow Map. Once everything is in place, you can also play with the settings in the Volume light Parameter rollout to achieve different results.
How I coped with it can be seen in Fig.09.
The rest of the work was done in Photoshop. Now you can see what the volume light pass was rendered for. I changed its color towards a blue hue and applied it over the image twice in Linear Dodge mode set to 43% fill. Why twice? The second one, as you can see in Fig.10, has a mask, therefore it effects only nearby light sources. This setup gives a feeling of a gradual lost of light.
Once I'd painted in a few more details, the image was done (Fig.11).
To see more by Nikita Veprikov, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection