Making Of 'Mr Froggy'
My name is Darko Vucenik and I am a 3D artist and illustrator from Croatia. This is a project overview for my image "Mister Froggy". I created this image purely for fun.
Mister Froggy started, as most of my ideas do, with a few simple sketches (Fig.01). At first Froggy wasn`t a frog; I don`t know exactly what he was. Some sort of bug, perhaps. These sketches were very little; they were sort of thumbnails that I did very quickly, just to put the rough ideas from my head on paper. At first I imagined a cartoony bug hanging on to a small plant. With a second sketch I focused a bit more on the character and with a third I added an old tree stump as the focus of his environment.
After drawing a few rough sketches I continued my project by making a few drawings that focus on the character and any other elements that could require clarification before modeling. But, in the case of Mister Froggy, I decided to go straight into 3D and refine the idea on the go.
For modeling I used 3D Max 9. I worked on the character first. I started every element from a primitive object - usually a cylinder or a plane - and shaped it into a final form while keeping geometry simple. You can see the unsubdivided geometry in Fig.02.
After I finished modeling the character, I created a simple bones rig (Fig.03). Since this character was not intended for animation, I didn`t spent much time on skinning. Instead, I adjusted any errors in the mesh that occurred after posing, with standard modeling tools.
Next, I modeled the tree stump. Again, I kept the geometry simple as I knew I would be adding detail later in ZBrush. I adjusted the pose of the character to better follow the curvature of the tree. To populate the ground around the tree, I modeled several types of plants (Fig.04). The grass patch (marked with letter A in Fig.04) was scattered around using a particle system. The same was done with the small plant (marked with B) to create moss growing on the tree stump. Using Particle Flow to grow foliage is a fast and easy to control method. The rest of the plants were instanced and placed by hand.
I used ZBrush to add detail to the tree and the coat. In Fig.05 you can see the alphas I used to sculpt the tree. First I used the simple brush to do a basic shape of the roots and then I just stamped the details of the bark and ground all over. On the coat I added a few wrinkles on the back and around the sleeves.
I exported the coat back into Max with the highest subdivision. The tree had too many polygons to do that, so I lowered the subdivision to the level at which the roots kept a pretty good form. For the rest of the details I made a normal map (Fig.06). The planes in the back were for the sky, pine trees and mist.
With the modeling stage finished I began texturing by browsing through a bunch of maps to find the right ones to use as my texture base. For the character I chose several cloth textures for the coat, trousers, vest, tie and hat (I used "carpet08" from 3DTotal Textures V06:R2 - Clean Textures and "fabric01", "fabric02" and "fabric12" from TTV16 - Architectural Showroom) and for the organic parts I found some bases for the skin and animal looking eyes ("hsky15" and "ceye18" from TTV04:R2 - Humans & Creatures and "green04" from TTV11:R2 - Alien Organic). In the case of this picture I didn`t pay so much attention to the color of the map but rather to the pattern and the right balance between light and dark areas (Fig.07).
I started my textures by rendering out a UV layout from Max and filling out some parts with chosen base maps, in this case a denim-looking fabric (B) for the trousers and a skin base on the face and hands (A) (Fig.08 - part 1). I used Photoshop for this.
Next I color-corrected the maps (part 2). As you can see, at this point in the project, I was still undecided as to what my character was, and what color it should be. So that is why I originally started with a standard pink face.
Next, I painted in some shadows and smudges over the skin and overlaid light and dark stripes over the trousers (part 3).
At this point I decided that he was a sort of a frog - imaginatively called Mr. Froggy - so I made him green and painted even more shadows and smudges. Following the edges on the UV layout I painted some dark seams on the trousers (part 4).
Next I added some wrinkles all over the face, dark circles beneath the eyes and some pink tones around the lips and eyelids. I dirtied the trousers using a black and white dirt map (C) ("tile04heavy17" from TTV05:R2 - Dirt & Graffiti).
Finally I overlaid a color-corrected, greenish noisy texture to add more detail to the skin (D). When making such a texture, I always keep my file in many layers so I can do quick fixes if needed. By adjusting the tone curves of this original map, or just some layers of it, I produced all other variants of the texture - bump, specular, sss. The same method that I used on the trousers was used on all the clothing.
The tree was the fastest to texture. I created a mix of two bark maps for the stump ("photo_bark13" from TTV10:R2 - Trees & Plants and "vegetation08" from TTV14:R2 - Fantasy) and a mix of gray and brown ground maps for the base ("ground19" from TTV01:R2 - General Textures and "stone03" from TTV06:R2). I loosely stamped these mixes over the object in ZBrush. Since the alpha of the stamp had very feathered edges, the map that was produced was somewhat blurry. To make it sharper I overlaid it with a cavity map and displacement map. A layer of green on the top for moss and the texture was done (Fig.09).
The rest of the plants in the scene used just the diffuse map (Fig.10). To create some variation in the color of the grass blades without using multiple maps, I laid out their UV coordinates in a line. I filled the texture with a base color and overlaid some dirty looking maps for variation ("green11" from TTV03:R2 - Bases & Layers and "tile02heavy06" from TTV05:R2).On the top I put a layer with some yellow patches for even more variation. Making textures for other plants came down to just fitting the base maps that I chosen ("photo_leaf09" and "photo_leaf10" from TTV10:R2) to UV layout. Very simple color correction and a little editing were fast to do.
To create trees in the background I used a close up photo of a decorative pine cone (Fig.11). By cutting and assembling various pieces of the photo I created four big pines. I color corrected the trees to a darker color that suited the mood of the image. Next, I placed a gradient overlay to match the direction of the light to the rest of the scene. I finalized the trees with some hand painted highlights. Trees were then placed in the scene simply as images on the planes. I assembled the sky from various photos on top of witch I airbrushed the lighting I wanted. I don`t know why I painted the sky map in detail since I intended to have defocused background from the start.
Lighting was done at the same time as the materials, adjusting one to work well with the other. I used an old but fast and functional method (Fig.12).
First I created an array of 16 pale blue lights with a very low intensity (multiplier at 0.2). That array acted as an ambient sky light (marked in a picture with B). Using a bunch of spotlights like this makes renders much faster than using an actual skylight.
To simulate the sun I used two pale yellow lights with high intensity (multiplier at 3, marked with C & D). Higher light acts as a direct sun and the lower light simulates rays bouncing off the ground.
Finally I added another pale yellowish light as a fill light (multiplier at 0.5, marked with A).
As I was tweaking the lights I also tweaked the materials. All materials were very simple. For foliage I used the standard 3ds Max translucent shader with the same map in diffuse and bump slots. For clothing I used a falloff map set to Fresnel with my diffuse texture as a sub map in both slots. The map around the edges was lighter faking a very scattered reflection. Again, I used the same map in the bump slot. For the skin I mixed two materials through a falloff map set to shadow/light. One was a standard phong material and the other was a translucent shader with a purple version of the diffuse map (marked with sss in Fig.07). This faked some sub surface scattering. Other materials in the scene were just simple variations. In many of them I used a HDRI map for reflections again through a Fresnel falloff map (I just love those handy falloff maps!)
Rendering was done with scanline for all the layers except occlusion which was rendered in mental ray. For compositing I used After Effects (Fig .13). I divided the render into four passes for the foreground and four for the background:
- Beauty pass
- Direct light - since ambient occlusion should not appear in direct light, I used this layer as a mask.
- Ambient occlusion - aah, it makes so many renders prettier!
- Z depth channel - used for depth of field effect
- Mist - this layer was set to be very transparent in the composite; just some mist to better tie up the foreground and the background.
- Background trees beauty pass
- Z background depth channel - used for fog and depth of field effect
Finally over all the layers I added some color correction and then popped back to Photoshop to do some small corrective repaints.
And here's the final image (Fig.14)! I hope you found this brief Making Of interesting. Thank you for reading and thanks to 3D Total for the Excellence Award!