Making Of 'Last Stand'

If you want to polish-up your ZBrush skills or were thinking of using MARI, continue reading for some helpful instructions from Francesc Camós.

My name is Francesc Camós and I am a texture artist at Kandor Graphics. I used to do personal projects at home for fun, but also to improve my skills with programs I rarely use at work. A big motivation for doing The Last Stand was to polish up my ZBrush skills, as well as to try MARI as the main texturing program for the first time.

I began this project by creating a proxy section of a railroad station in Softimage. This 3D draft allowed me to play with cameras, shapes and shadows while I was looking for a good composition.

At the same time I began sculpting an old woman in ZBrush 4R3. I started with a rough concept of her, which I developed in DynaMesh. The new brushes from the last updates of ZBrush were very helpful, such as the InsertMesh brush, which I used for making her hands and head, and the CurveSurface brush for her skirt and the rifle strap (Fig.01).

Fig.01

Fig.01

As the sculpted concept became more refined and bulked out, I exported different decimated versions of it to Softimage. I then continued to play with the camera angles until I got something I was comfortable with. As I was going for a still image, this procedure of going back and forth from the main composition in Softimage to the sculpting of the character in ZBrush saved me a lot of time (Fig.02).

Fig.02

Fig.02

Once that phase was completed I focused on the environment. For detailing the main assets of the environment, such as the pavement, planks of wood and stone and brick walls, I resorted to ZBrush again. I applied some brick, stone, and crack alphas to achieve big and fine details, and used the Standard and Move brushes to get rid of the unreal perfection of the base models (Fig.03).

Fig.03

Fig.03

All UV unwrapping was done in UV Layout. Though ZBrush unwrapping tools have become very powerful in the latest versions, I still prefer the full control that UV Layout offers, even if the sculpting pipeline in ZBrush becomes a bit awkward.

Ptex texturing mechanics aside, I believe good unwrapping will not only save a lot of headaches in the texturing process, but establish the conditions necessary for good texturing.

I used to create at least three texture maps for every object: diffuse, specular and bump, but in some cases shaders had to be extended with displace and/or sub surface scattering maps. All diffuse texture maps were done in MARI 1.4v1, while specular, bump and sub surface scattering maps were done in Photoshop CS5, and displacement maps were extracted from ZBrush (Fig.04).

In many cases, specular, SSS, and even some bump maps can be extracted through their diffuse parent map. I make as much use of masks as I can by texturing in a non-destructive way in Photoshop. That way I can reuse almost every layer in order to recreate specularity and sub surface scattering.

In MARI I try to follow the same philosophy; masked shader modules being my first choice. Although I render an occlusion pass in post-production, I also use baked occlusions to add some dirt on texture maps. In MARI I directly paint a dirt channel making use of the Masked Ambient Occlusion feature in the Projection palette.

The scene was lit with a main light, rim light, fill light and GI. I rendered six main passes, these were AO, DOF, MainLight, ID mask, Character light and Fill light (Fig.05).

Fig.05

Fig.05

The composition process I followed in post-production can be laid out in four steps:

My first step was to put together all light passes in order to get a nice balance between direct and fill illumination. I used the character light pass to accentuate the old woman, as well as a masked layer with the rifle ID to restore some specularity on the rifle, which had almost disappeared (Fig.06).

The second step was to apply an Ambient Occlusion pass and add some level adjustments that gave the image more contrast. Here I realized the skin tone was becoming very saturated, so I had to render a fast ID mask for her arms and face to decrease the saturation (Fig.07).

On the third step I noticed the image was not framed enough, and that shadows on the stage were getting too dim, particularly on the left corner and stairs. Too much attention was being drawn to the rail road section. Therefore I painted some blurry shadows masked by several IDs. This partially helped me to achieve the dramatic look I was pursuing. I also recovered some small details on her arms that had been lost in the desaturation process and applied a soft color correction, masked by the DOF pass (Fig.08).

I achieved the dramatic look I was after with several color corrections and final Levels and Curves adjustments. Once I was satisfied with the composition I added a soft DOF using the Lens Blur filter, a small amount of noise and sharpened the overall result.

Thank you for reading this Making Of, and thank to the 3DTotal crew for letting me give back to the community part of the knowledge I have gathered through it.

To see more by Francesc Camós, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 9
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection