Making Of 'Cross Of Iron'
I am a big fan of military topics. Since I had already done a soldier, this time I wanted to try a World War II German general.
Because this character was based on the real world look-and-feel, I didn't draw any concepts for it. Therefore, I needed a ton of references instead. I found an old man reference from 3d.sk which I decided to use for my character; the reason was simply that it was a perfect reference to practice my ZBrush sculpting skills with and would also fit my character pretty well (Fig.01).
I created a plane in ZBrush with the reference image as the texture. Then, I started to model the head from a sphere. It's much easier to get the right proportion if you have an image plane (Fig.02).
After I'd roughly done the sculpting, I exported a high-poly OBJ file to Maya and started to do re-topology. This is a very important step if you want your model to be used for real production. Modeling is only the first step of the production process; there is a lot of work after that, such as unwrapping, rigging, animation, etc. If you can keep your wireframe clean and appropriate, it will make everyone's life much easier. I used a Maya plugin called "Nex", which is a very nice tool to do re-topology with; using this plugin will keep your polygons in quads and evenly-spaced easily (Fig.03).
After completing the re-topology process, I exported another OBJ file and went back to ZBrush. With clean edge-loops, this time I was finally able to work on the details. There's one thing I'd like to point out at this point: each area of the face has a particular skin texture. It's important not to use the same texture everywhere because it will look unrealistic (Fig .04).
It was now time to give the general an expression. I wanted the general to have a cruel feeling, but his expression also needed to be natural, not artificial. So I made some subtle changes (Fig.05).
I don't have much to say about the uniform; I just carefully referred to my references and made sure that after I put every single piece back together, it would still look and feel like a German general's uniform (Fig.06).
Ok, so that brings me to the end of the modeling part, so I'm just going to summarize my workflow so far (Fig.07 - Fig.09):
- Start from a simple mesh
- Deform this simple mesh to match the reference
- After getting the correct proportion, use re-topology technique to make wireframe nice and clean
- Sculpt every detail until you get the final result you want
- Give a facial expression
Next I exported a low-poly OBJ, a displacement map and a normal map from ZBrush to Maya. With those three elements, I was able to exhibit a very highly detailed model with just a low-poly geometry. The low-poly geometry gives a clean and simple wireframe. The displacement map gives further detail base on the low-poly geometry, and the normal map gives the final, super-fine detail base on the displacement map (Fig .09).
The light setting was fairly simple. I used four lights - a key light, a rim light and two bounce lights - which gave me the illumination I needed. I gave the rim light a blue color to make the lighting more interesting. The eyes shining under the shadow gave a creepy feeling (Fig. 10).
I used "Zapplink" to paint the color map - it's a free plugin for ZBrush and is a perfect tool to paint organic models. I painted all the other maps based on this color map (Fig. 11).
I used MiaSSS fast skin shader for the skin, and gave the epidermal a light blue color and subdermal an orange; I put the real skin color on the overall color (Fig.12).
After rendering, I was then at the final step of this image. Compositing is a very important step towards the final result. Here I tried to give the image an aged, old TV, photo feel (Fig.13).
I hope this Making Of was helpful to you. Thank you for reading!