Making Of 'Flamethrower S.U.'
My name is Andrei Cristea and I'm a 3D artist. I have a bit of a 3D generalist history, but lately I've been focusing my attention on character modelling and digital sculpting.
This character idea came to me when I was doing some research into gas masks and military gear in general, and I found a photo of some very interesting medical units (I guess) wearing one of the early models of gas masks (Fig.01).
To make this model I used 3ds Max and ZBrush. The first step was to model a quick base mesh in 3ds Max - nothing too fancy, I just wanted to have some geometry in place (Fig.02). I usually try to have the polygons evenly distributed on the model, and sometimes I also add some edge loops into the areas that I know will hold more detail when I move onto sculpting in ZBrush. A general rule is to stay away from triangles and poles, but I sometimes prefer to end a loop early, rather than carrying it all across the mesh, if it messes with the general polygon distribution.
I then started work on the model inside ZBrush. I first of all focused on the silhouette, proportion and balance of the pose. I wanted to give the model an imposing scale so I had to exaggerate the proportions a little. The pose also helped to create this impression.
I didn't have any really good references for the cloth, so I tried to follow some basic patterns that cloth usually makes. It's important to create the illusion that there is something under the cloth, so try to give hints where you can, depending on the anatomy and the pose of the specific model (Fig.03). This works much better if you try not to cut into the model when you are creating the folds. Also use Zadd as much as you can!
I then moved onto detailing the other parts of the outfit. I usually try to focus more on the big shapes, instead of going into detail very early on (Fig.04). Always try to work from references, if possible, because it will save you a lot of time.
The head was something that I didn't plan initially because I was going with a full head gas mask. It started as a simple shape that I wanted to use as a reference for placing the gas mask, but I got carried away a bit. It was a happy accident!
I had a very basic base model, but this wasn't much of a problem (Fig.05 - 06). If your computer can handle enough subdivisions (mine doesn't!), you can start with something very simple and retopologise later. That's the beauty of ZBrush!
For this next step I made a bit more use of 3ds Max. It is a lot easier to do hard surface modelling in Max than ZBrush, and I recommend using Polyboost if you're box modelling in Max! I imported a lower-res version of the model from ZBrush to use it as reference. I had to go with a different gas mask design than the one that I initially planned because the full head model was harder to bend and place onto the chest. The straps were very easy to make; I used the shell modifier to give them thickness at the ends (Fig.07).
When detailing in ZBrush I was trying to give a suggestion of the objects inside the bag, and so I made sure I took these into account when I was creating the folds (Fig.08).
I wanted to give a weapon to the character as well, to make it more interesting and give him a bit of a back-story (Fig.09). So he became a medic with a gloomy past, going on the rampage with a flamethrower! Gas masks also go hand in hand with flame throwers! I added some damage to the tubes and made some quick details on the hose (Fig.10).
I assembled everything together in ZBrush. I created layers for the objects that I knew I would modify, in the case I needed to go back to the standard pose. I then used Transpose Master to pose the model. Some modelling was necessary to correct the parts that didn't deform properly, and I also had to redo the folds that were not flowing in the right direction, according to the new pose (Fig.11 - 12).
The rendering was done in V-Ray. I decided to take the entire model into Max, but this was a problem for me because I only had 2G of ram. A workaround was to split the model into different files, ticked "display as a box" option before saving, and imported them as xrefs into the main scene.
The lighting setup was very simple and consisted of just two area lights (Fig.13).
With the final image I went for a simple and clean look. I wanted the details to be easy to read so that the work that had been done in ZBrush would not be wasted (Fig.14)!
Fig. 14 - Final Image
Thanks everyone for reading. Cheers!