Making Of 'Katsumo'
My name is Hasan Bajramovic and I would love to walk you through the creation process of my latest work, Katsumoto. I had a lot of fun making this image and I learned a lot along the way. Hopefully you will be able to gain something from this article.
Thoughts and ideas about creating this image began some time ago during my studies. I was always fascinated by Japanese culture, Samurai warriors and their ways. Their discipline and strength is unmatched (totally sounds like something from a kung fu movie!) plus they look really cool. I really wanted to go with a more artistic approach, making this image look like an old and forgotten photograph that has been re-mastered and brought to life.
I found my inspiration in the work of T. Enami (Enami Nobukuni, 1859 - 1929) who was a Japanese photographer from the Meiji period. His photographs are a huge source of inspiration for me and if you haven't seen his work already, just go to: www.t-enami.org
During the creation of this image I ran into several conceptual and technical problems. There is no easy fix for any of these and the only thing you can do is to just go back to the drawing board and do it again until it looks right. Believe me when I say that I know it's hard to stay motivated and keep working on something when you keep on running into problems. Just stay at it, have fun and in the end it will pay off.
Before you even start opening your favorite 3D app it's really important to gather all the references that you will need to build up your concept. I can't stress how important it is to have some sort of a concept that will guide you through and give you a general idea of where you're going with your work. This will save you a lot of time later on once things start getting complicated. Try to stay organized as much as you can!
It was really important to understand the structure of the armor so I spent some time finding all the necessary images (Fig.01). Finding references about all the knots that had to be tied (like the ones on the chest and shoulder plates) was the hardest. Luckily I was able to find some videos on YouTube and these were really helpful.
Looking into samurai names was also important so I went to Wikipedia and found a list of samurai names. Katsumoto, which is a Japanese family name meaning "victorious", really stood out to me.
I used 3ds Max to model the hard surface armor and ZBrush for his face and hair. I usually model all of my characters in a generic T-pose, but this time I went and modeled everything in the final pose. Modeling the armor was the hardest on this project because of all the details and small pieces it consists of. I ended up with a high polycoun,t but that wasn't my concern from the beginning.
The first thing I did on Katsumoto was the blocking in of the helmet and the mask (Fig.02). In the end I decided to throw away the mask because I really wanted to show his face.
I started with a simple polysphere that I split along its middle edge and moved around the vertices to create an oval shape. The neck protectors were created using a simple plane with chamfer and the Extrude tools. Too finish it off I added a shell modifier for the thickness, followed by Bend and FFD modifiers to round it up in such a way that it follows the curvature of the helmet.
The ropes that are holding all the neck protection pieces were created separately. I created one of these and the rest were instanced. You'll want to do the UVs straight away because you might end up collapsing the stack and making all of them unique objects. You would then need to re-do all the steps that you did already.
The visor was done the same way as the neck protector pieces. I created a simple plane that has thickness, added the outer chrome/silver parts and then bent it in shape with FFD.
The knots, ropes and all the knitting on the helmet were placed using the Spacing tool (Tools > Align > Spacing tool or Shift + I) inside 3ds Max. First you need to make different types of threads that you are going to use. Once you're done just lay down some curves on that surface using the Graphite tools or by creating shapes (Create Shape under Edit Poly) using the existing edge loops on your model. Open the Spacing tool with the thread selected and pick your curve. You will see that the thread is now placed on the curve that you just created. Just increase the count and turn on the Follow context. If the orientation of the threads is wrong you might need to play with the rotation of the object in order to get it right (Fig.03).
The chest plate is composed of two parts: metal cover and the back leather. Just like with all the other models I started with a primitive shape. This time I created a cylinder that I edited using the Cut Polygons tool. I repeated the same steps for the inner leather part of the chest plate and once I was satisfied I selected both of these pieces and applied Shell and FFD modifiers. To get the desired curvature I moved around some of those FFD points. These steps were repeated for the back armor as well (Fig.04).
The big cloth rope (as well as all the other ropes) that prevents the helmet from falling off was first created using simple spline shapes (Fig.05) that I wrapped around each other. Once I was happy with the way it looks I modeled one segment of the rope. Since it was a small segment of rope I did the UVs for it straightaway. This way I could apply a pattern to the whole thing.
The next step was to make multiple copies of the segment and to offset them along the Y axis so they could be merged into one big rope. I just attached all of them together and did a quick weld on all of the vertices, followed by adding a pathdeformWSM modifier. Picking the path and then clicking the Move to Path button does all the magic for you. I repeated these steps for all the ropes and knots seen on the model.
Sculpting the face was straightforward. I took one of the references found in my research and just started sketching (Fig.06). I do all of my sculpting inside ZBrush and I can't imagine my life without it.
At one point Katsumoto was supposed to wear a mask, but I kind of just dropped that idea and decided to give him some facial hair (Fig.07). With the aid of ZBrush's fibermesh that was a piece of cake. I just masked the area that I wanted covered with all the default settings, and lowered the total amount of hair. ZBrush still didn't have export curves option so I had to import the geometry and use this awesome script by Wayne Robson that I found online. Thank you Wayne! I did the same thing with his eyebrows.
Shading and Texturing
Texturing of his face was done inside ZBrush. I added the base color to the entire model and then started painting in red areas where there is more muscle and fat, and yellow in areas that are boney. Once I had blocked in these colors I painted in some of the pores with red and brown color. I tried to add some imperfections to his skin like moles and blackheads (Fig.08).
I finished it off by cavity masking the model and adding in darker tones in certain areas. Normal maps and Displacement maps were extracted from ZBrush with standard settings.
Settings for the SSS2 material used on his face are shown in Fig.09. I love this shader because it gives great results and it's really simple to set it up.
It took some experimenting and a lot of trial and error to get the look that I wanted. Materials used on the armor are really simple and just have a Diffuse map with a fresnel overlay and some procedural bump mapping (Fig.10).
Lightning and Rendering
I created a simple two-point setup for the final image with all the default settings. I just tweaked the intensity a bit on each one of them. I also added a HDR map in both the environment and reflection slots of the V-Ray renderer. By doing this I was able to catch some reflections on the metal parts of Katsumoto's armor. I think this is really important as it helps to sell the final render (Fig.11).
Like most 3D artists out there I used Photoshop for the final compositing. I didn't go crazy with passes on this one and I only rendered out a ZDepth pass so I could add some subtle depth of field.
Most of the work was about color correction, so I spent some time trying to create different moods using curves and exposure controls in Photoshop. I finished it off with a vignette and some hand-painted dust particles that are flying through the air.
And here's the final image (Fig.12).
I hope you liked this Making Of, and if you have any further questions about the process feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
To see more by Hasan Bajramovic, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 9