Making of 'Kinetica'
Hi and welcome to the Making Of Kinetica. To best understand the artistic process, we'll start by looking back to before production even began, to the conceptualizing phase. One of the first steps is to understand how the image was formed, and that was through some serious sketch exercises (Fig.01).
What made Kinetica a unique art project was the vision it took, as far as what I imagined. Sometimes it's hard to describe thoughts on paper, but the effort of conceptualizing the character's look and feel through color and even shapes helped bring the image to reality (Fig.02).
The image itself would have be a difficult build, but even harder if I hadn't taken the time to conceptualize the look and feel before moving on to the modeling.
Blocking out the scene in 3D was the first step. This helped understand the volume and composition that the scene was going to engulf. It was also an opportunity to pre-plan lighting and get an understanding of the overall light and space. I accomplished this with just primitive objects, which allowed me to get the idea quickly (Fig.03).
Building the scene took some time. The characters were designed with oddly simple tech outfitting their bodies. I was careful not to engulf the human aspect with the metal objects. Skin had to be shown. With that in mind, I created a small library of individual pieces of armor, fitted for each female character. If something had to be changed, it was quick and easy to do so without wasting time as the pieces were interchangeable (Fig.04).
I only needed one character to be rigged for this image to work. 50% of my time was spent on building props, and the other 50% was worrying about the image artistically (Fig.05).
When the assets were completed, I replaced the blocked out scene with the final objects and was able to judge how well the scene worked and how well the objects were interacting with each other. This was the moment where I could iterate on the scene's objects and clean up the composition. Dead spots were filled with objects so there weren't barren areas between the characters (Fig.06).
Setting up the lighting and materials, I established a theme: dark, murky metal, with light hitting and reflecting off the mechanical materials. Lighting and color additions were going to be accomplished in Photoshop. Since I was working with mental ray, the lighting setup consist of two Directional Lights and a Skylight (Fig.07).
I laid out materials that fitted and blended well with the objects they were assigned to. I did this by taking advantage of the Autodesk metal, car paint and SSS materials provided. Setting up a simple lighting setup helped me test how these materials reacted.
Slight modifications to the materials were a given. The MR SSS had to be tweaked to fit the lighting setup and metals had to be modified, so the specular and reflections had to hit right. Small resolution iterations of renders were made over and over again. As expected, to fix material and lighting issues, I rendered artifacts. This is a given most of the time (Fig.08).
After going through the iterations to find and fix graphical problems, I rendered with mental ray, which provided some fast results. Overall my plan was to render nice, simple passes, and composite and paint in Photoshop. Final Gather wasn't needed; the render worked well without it and it saved time (Fig.09).
Using Render Elements I was able to render my diffuse and Z-Depth passes. An AO pass and Light pass were also rendered. The following passes were rendered as a material override: rock texture and a metal texture. These two were going to be used as a paint FX pass (Fig.10).
I then moved into Photoshop so that I could take more artistic control through painting and compositing. One of the goals I had before I started was that I wanted to spend more time artistically on this image. I knew this was going to happen in Photoshop given the time constraint.
Once Photoshop booted up, I began laying down my passes, filtering layers and adjusting the colors. I combined and edited multiple passes of the same element to gain a smooth, soft composition. Using the rock pass, I roughened the surfaces and added contrast to the metal (Fig.11).
Photo-filtering and contrast emphasis were used to deepen the color and tone of the image. When I'd established a nice variant, painting effects began. Using a final render pass and the metal passes beneath it, I started painting in scratches on the metal and edges of the armor and tech. Alongside this, I painted strokes of scratches on the surface because I didn't want anything to look new (Fig.12).
Final paint effects, including smoke and light streaks, were painted and composited. The little flares added life to the image. As tech was involved, I was required to render mattes just for the glowing light objects (Fig.13).
When the painting was all set and done, I took some time to color correct and fix the tone of the image, balancing the overall tone, materials and skin of the characters. Some photo filters were applied, including the Lomo effect and vibrancy in Photoshop. All this was topped off with the right amount of noise and blur overlay to the image (Fig.14).
Kinetica was an image that I never thought I would see physically, just only in my head. But I started off right, by concepting the abstract-like image early. Without doing that, it would have been a mess with no direction (Fig.15).