Making Of 'Robot Rock'
Hi, my name is Jonathan Simard and I'm Lead Animator at a very cool Activision Studio called Beenox. I'm really happy to do this tutorial - I hope it will be helpful and I'll try to let the pictures talk for themselves.
Robot Rock is based on a song called "The Same" by Daft Punk. And yeah, I think robots are cool, but they're even cooler when you choose to go with a different style! Let's just say, with this piece, I tried to make a different kind of robot...
In this tutorial I will show you how I modelled some of the parts, how I lit the character, and the final colour correction work that I did in Photoshop. I'm sorry to say this actually, but I didn't start with a concept drawing for this piece. Instead, I started with a picture of my girlfriend's cat, called "Edgy" - a Persian cat with sad eyes. This wasn't my only reference though; I took care to find anything related to robots, referencing lots of concept art and 3d models. Surely I knew I wouldn't model a cat, but I found it cool to start out using the cat's eyes as reference. I should mention here actually that the general basic idea for this piece was a dead 'Astro' boy.
Eyes are always the most important thing on a model, and I should say that I put more effort there. For this model I took a lot of time getting the right proportion with the eyeball; I really wanted to feel the eyelid surrounding the eyeball (Fig01). When that was done, I only had to model a face that was going to fit with this kind of eye. The only thing I took care of after that was to achieve a clean mesh, simply because I wanted something clean.
I always follow basic anatomy in my work. There are few rules I try to follow during modelling: I try to not have stretch polygons; I aim to make my character look cool from every angle - even if I know I will pose him from a front view; and my character must look cool with no meshsmooth. Here I've put together a little progression, with a mini basic nose tutorial (Fig02 and Fig03).
I always start the nose modelling this way. You will notice that the last two ones don't have the same mesh. That's because I like to have the basic shape first, and redo the mesh later.
The muscle was the easiest thing to do. I wanted to make different kinds of joints between the arm and torso; I didn't want to make something too clichÃ©d, so I modelled something that looked organic, yet at the same time robotic. So I used anatomy references and built a quick shoulder and arm. The technique, as you will see from Fig04, is quite simple. I just added a cylinder, copied it into a circle and added a twist modifier. With that done, I added a taper modifier to give the muscle a rounded shape, and with the help of the ffd box, I place it how I wanted it and it looked just like muscle!
The three tubes at the back were really quick and easy to model, too. I started adding a cylinder with 18 sides, and gave each section a 20 degree angle. I just kept one section and began working on it. When one section was done, I just copied it 18 times, with a 20 degree angle, and welded them together. That created one row. I copied that with a 10 degree rotation and weld the new part on the other. When I'd got one section with two different rows, I could then duplicate it and make the tube "thing". At the end, I just added a taper to give the rounded shape (Fig05).
The top of the head was a little tricky to do. I modelled it as a normal rounded head and kept it as reference for every section I did, because I wanted to keep the spherical aspect of it. I used the shell modifier for every section. This modifier is pretty cool, because you can achieve the thickness on an object. Every part of the robot is done like that (Fig06).
The lighting was quite easy to do. I didn't want to pass time working with final gather in Mental Ray and dealing with bouncing light. So I kind of faked it. The first thing I did was to change the ambient. In the environment panel, I clicked on the black colour in the ambient section and chose something a little bit less dark, and also added a blue feel (Fig07). Now I won't have any black shadows, instead I will have a brighter feeling. I used the 3-point lighting technique.
After that, in every material I put on the character, I added an ambient occlusion in the diffuse section (Fig08). This will add the occlusion effect on my character and it looks pretty good! One thing to remember is how to deal with glass material that covers other parts, like the eye. When you model an eye you have one sphere on another; the bigger one serves for the reflection and refraction of the eye, so you need it to be transparent. Mental Ray doesn't know that material is transparent so he will process the ambient occlusion of the smaller sphere reacting with the bigger one. This will cause your smaller sphere to be black (Fig10). The way I did this was, in the properties of the transparent sphere, I added the number 90 for the object ID. After that, in the ambient occlusion panel of the smaller sphere, it the section called "Incl./Excl. Object ID (Neg. = Exclude)" I wrote -90 (Fig08). This is going to tell mental that you don't have to take care of the entire object with object ID 90. Now the ambient occlusion effect will work Fig09.
When the render was done it was time to colour correct the picture in Photoshop. The first thing I do every time is to adjust the brightness, contrast and the saturation. I always find that the render from Max on too insipid. I also add a new layer with a more vivid colour to bring the colour of the picture together. I put this layer on Vivid Light and work on the opacity of it, or the saturation of the colour.
The effects, like the smoke and sparkle, are just pictures I found on the Net and worked in Photoshop. I recommend you to find smoke with black background - it's a lot easier to merge! On this picture I was able to merge it with the layer in Lighten mode with 70% opacity for the smoke, and with a Linear Dodge layer at 100% opacity (Fig10).