Making Of 'Naked Mole Rat'

The idea to model this animal came when someone suggested to make a speed-challenge about naked molerats. I didn't know before that those animals exist, but I was fascinated, not only about their looks but also about the living habits (they live in colonies like bees or ants, with a queen and workers and soldiers, they feel no pain cause some gene is missing, ...)

In this making of I'll show you how the naked molerat was done, using Wings3d for modelling, XSI for posing, Corel Photopaint for textures and postproduction and 3dsmax for the final setup and render in Vray.

I won't speak much about the modelling part, the focus is more on the 2d aspects of the project which are texturing and postproduction.
You'll see how I use copy and paste for texturing, and how I use layers to achieve certain effects.

Reference images

The first step is gathering references. I always google for references in several different languages, so I find more. In the end I had 52 different pictures of the naked mole rat, and by the way came across some interesting facts about this strange animal on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterocephalus_glaber

Modeling

I modelled in Wings3d. I started by extruding a raw shape from a box, and went on by connecting edges, moving, rotating and scaling parts, extruding, sliding etc., always trying to keep my loops going along the folds of the naked molerat skin.
While modelling I had one of the reference pictures opened in a separate window at the side.
I modelled the molerat in a neutral, symmetrical pose, because it seems less work, even if the final pose won't look like this.

I exported to XSI, where I made up a simple bone system which consisted mainly of spheres and cylinders. I used the system to put the molerat into pose. Then I exported back to Wings3d again, to clean up some errors caused by the posing and to add a few more details. (more folds, more details on the head, more intersections on the hands which turned out to be too short)

Same procedure for the other objects. It was hard to find good references of old windows on google, so I asked on a forum for that. The camera is an E. & H.T. Anthony Champion, found on http://www.fiberq.com/cam/ (lots of very good references for cameras there).

I modeled with eye-measuring on the references, without blueprint in the viewport, cause it's the quickest method if the model does not have to be exact. I didn't chamfer edges but insteac used ring select => connect => (bevel edge) => slide, which leads to the wire you see in the picture and gives, compared to chamfering edges, better results after meshsmoothing, especially at corners of the object. The window and the wall were modeled the same way, all objects are made from cylinders or boxes.

The Curtain - The curtain was modeled in wings3d too, modeling such an object by hand gives me more control over the shape than using the cloth reactors in max.

The Cactus - The spikes of the cactus are made in max with a PArray and instanced geometry. The cactus texture has a layer with a rhinoceros' butt cause it had such nice structure.

Texturing

After unwrapping (in max), I opened the molerat UVW in Corel Photopaint. I layered one of my reference pictures over it, cut out a part using a mask (1), smoothed the edges (2) - there's an automatic option for that in corel, or the possibility to use a soft erazor brush, and copied it very often, with scaling and rotating and erasing parts (3). I tried to follow the direction of the folds of the mole rat skin. At (4) you see the final product, which consists mostly of the edited parts of (1), except the hands and mouth (5) which is taken from another texture or reference.

I did some test renders in XSI, which you see here. That way I could see if the texture has the right direction everywhree and if the folds are not too big or too small. Later I switched back to max and vray. In the final picture, the material of
the molerat has SSS, perhaps too much, so that the texture is visible just a little bit.

I textured the objects, layering different textures over each other and drawing lines on the edges to make it look less random. Some of the textures I used were tileable, others were not so I used the method of smoothing edges and copying the piece in order to put the texture across the whole UVW.
With this method you won't have the tiling effect, just the edges remain slightly blurred but if you set the smooth radius low, it won't be visible much.

Rusty Metal

Fig 11

Fig 11

Not tileable, undesired chain on the side

Fig 12

Fig 12

Undesired parts deleted

Fig 13

Fig 13

Edges smoothed

Fig 14

Fig 14

Copy, paste, rotate

The camera wood texture has rusty metal as dirtmap. It doesn't matter to use metal as dirtmap for wood as long as the base texture and maybe the bump is wood. I layered the rusty metal over the wood in overlay mode, and on a new layer drew lines on the edges (switching off the other textures meanwhile, to see the uvw).

Wood, Rusty Metal, Overlay

Wood, Rusty Metal, Overlay

UVW, Lines, Final

UVW, Lines, Final

For the window, the wood texture was a bit too dark so I corrected the color with a filter. I pasted a paint texture, and adjusted the contrast. Then I copied it twice and layered over the wood, the first time in hard light mode, the second time multiply. With a brush on a new layer I followed the edges of the window's uvw map.

Fig 17

Fig 17

Colour correction

Fig 18

Fig 18

Contrast correction

Hard light and multiply, edges added following the uvw

Hard light and multiply, edges added following the uvw



The crochet was found on german Wikipedia and edited a little bit in Corel, to be used as diffuse map and (gray) as opacity, bump and displace. Here's a small illustration of the map, the original (2500x2500) is available at
http://www.ania.xibo.at/img/szydelko_diff.jpgand
http://www.ania.xibo.at/img/szydelko_disp.jpg

if you don't find it there any more (I don't plan to leave it on the server forever), write me an email.

LEFT: Opacity, displace, bump, RIGHT: Diffuse

LEFT: Opacity, displace, bump, RIGHT: Diffuse

Lighting

The lighting is 4 lights:
1. A strong direct light, which simulates sunlight, and is responsible for the shadows on table and windw-sill. (it's the light with the sharpest shadows).
2. A Vray light (which is the same as area light) positionned directly in the window, responsible for illumination spreading from the window.
3. A blue, weaker light from inside, to lighten areas at the back of the camera and the right side of the courtain, which would be almost black otherwise.
4. A red light, also to lighten up some areas, and to give the whole thing more depth.

I always use coloured light to brighten up shadows (in this case nr. 3 and 4), I think it gives a nicer atmosphere
than white lights.
I linked a camera to 3 and 4, so that I could adjust it better by looking through. (the direct light in Max has this option by default)

Rendering and Postproduction

After a lot of tweaks in materials, lighting and position of objects and camera, I rendered (Vray). I had all Render Elements turned on, to use them in postproduction.

In the picture below, there were a few corrections to make. The top one is the original render, the bottom one is after some edits in corel.

On the example of the cactus, I try to explain how the glow effect was achieved.
I've chosen the GI render element for that, because it already was very bright in the cactus area. As you see I started with adjusting the contrast, then I desaturated it a bit, and layered it in add mode over the original render. I put a gaussian blur onto the element, and adjusted the visibility.
The edition of the other things mentionned above were done in a similar way, some parts (eg. the red GI on the camera) had to be cut out using a mask before adjustment, in order not to affect other parts.

GI render element, After adjustment of contrast, Desaturation, Original render

GI render element, After adjustment of contrast, Desaturation, Original render

Gaussion blur on GI element

Gaussion blur on GI element

I hope you will enjoy this making of and find it value. Please feel free to contact me if you have any question.

Enjoy!

Anna