Making Of 'Balthar'

Hello my name is Heber Alvarado and I will cover how I created one of the main characters for my demo reel.


I start by researching what kind of character I would like to create. During this process I think about every aspect of the character. Where does it live? What does it eat? age? weight? size etc. I believe thinking about all these things will help you to create a far more interesting character and create some history for the viewer to discover.


These are usually, quick rough sketches that I use to get my idea down on paper quickly and quickly try out proportions and overall design.


I begin my modeling by creating a very light and simple mesh (proxy) using this mesh I can further refine the overall anatomy and proportions of my character. Once I am happy with my proportions I slice my proxy up into pieces using the "extract poly tool". Then I create some layers to help me organize my scene and begin modeling each piece in full detail. Once I have completed all my pieces I will stitch them all back together using the "merge poly tool". At this point I make sure to check my character from all views and see if all the pieces and proportions are still correct to my liking.



I laid out the uvs for this character using mostly basic planar projections and the "relax" tool in xsi. The idea was to use as much of the map as possible and not waste too much resolution. Then I stamped my map out at a resolution of 4000 px.

Painting Textures

I painted all my textures from scratch in Photoshop I began with a bump map.(50% grey first) by painting this one first I could test with no color how the light reacted to the surface of my creature. The next map was the color map which I began by blocking in all my tonal values and color and completing it by matching it with my bump map and pushing the detail. Finally came the specular map which defines how areas of the surface reflect light , this map is mostly black with a very high contrast.


After trying many different solutions such as hdri, final gather and global illumination I felt that they all took extremely long to render. So I went with a simple solution using a 5 point light which looks something like this, when it comes to lighting its important NOT to completely blanket your character in light, its better if you use lighting to help you better describe form and shape. I find it very helpful to take 1 still of your render desaturate it in Photoshop and check to see if there's enough contrast that way.

Rigging Body

I rigged the body mainly for posing it, but I did have the intention to animate it. Such a heavy creature required me to use a lower poly version of him (same weighting as higher poly) then you simply hide the higher mesh and make the lower one visible and use that to animate.

Rigging Face

The face was a lot of fun to create, I wanted to create a custom set of sliders that I could use to mix different blendshapes in a more interactive fashion then regular sliders allow you to do. I will explain this part more in depth. You should be at an intermediate level of xsi to understand this much better.

First I create a library of blendshapes, each ones history is frozen (not transforms!) once modeling is completed.

I think about what kind of expressions I would like to give my character and think of ways to mix them together, I then create a custom interface using impliclits and arrange it together like so, its also very important to name each controller and zero it out using a null (easier to reset to 0,0,0):

Now to load the shapes onto the animation mixer, first turn on "apply selected shape keys" from the shape menu. Then select the original head and go to "shape" and then "select shape key" immediately rectangle select all the blendshapes you made. It should load the automatically into the mixer like so:

Now for the hard part linking all the shapes together.

Start by deciding which controller you would like to use for your shape in my case its called "c11".Go to your animation mixer find its corresponding shapetrack and right click on it then select "expression editor " from the list.

A menu should pop up type in the following expression in the blank area:


basically c11 is the name of the controller you wish to link to this shapetrack and the last part "posy" means the direction you will be moving the controller in so it could be ; posx, posy, posz etc .After that hit validate and apply at top and close this window.

Your shape is now linked to the controller! But we are not done we must put in the conditions under which you want the shape to activate when you move the slider. So go back to the shapetrack and r-click on it this time select "set relative value"

Now slide up the controller to its maximum position and also move the track slider upto 1 and set relative value here again!

Now your shape should be fully functional with the custom controller. This is the most basic use of this method , where it really shines is when you use it to link other things together for example you could use one single controller to smile, open mouth, sneer etc have fun experimenting with this. In this short .avi ive linked all the shapes and here they are working to give you a better idea:

Thanks for reading.

- Heber Alvarado

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