Making Of 'Ronaldo Fenomeno'
Since Ronaldo announced his retirement, I have been tempted to make a caricature of him. Brazilian people had plenty of great moments watching his performances in their national football team. Why not create this tribute to him? Sometimes a caricature can be closer to bullying than a tribute. I got into a lot of trouble in my childhood for using caricatures to play jokes on other kids. Flashbacks aside, humor can be a nice tribute and I think that this piece is no different. I tried to portray the awesome phase when he played in the 2002 World Cup, when he had his funny hair and big teeth.
I began with some sketches to design the style of the caricature. I did several roughs trying to understand and reflect Ronaldo's character. Defining his appearance was a tricky step. He has a kind of crafty, joker look that is mixed with a spontaneous smile. I wanted to include his famous number 9 shirt, and show him pointing his finger like he did when celebrating a goal. Fig.01 was my favorite among my roughs so I used it as the concept.
Modeling and Texturing
In ZBrush I started the modeling process using ZSpheres, which made things look funny from the beginning. ZSpheres are a nice way to create an initial mesh to work with, especially when modeling body parts. Using X axis symmetry I quickly created the upper body (Fig.02). At this stage I tried to improve the adaptive skin by adding some magnets to the hand (Alt + click in a ZSphere in Draw mode) (Fig.03).
After I had done this the upper body was ready to be posed and sculpted. The head was a difficult step because of the face deformation. The upper lip needed to be huge to cover the teeth, which made the face modeling process a little different than usual. I couldn't create user friendly polygon topology at this initial stage so I just dealt with ZSpheres to get a nice polygon flow. For this reason my goal was to create an initial mesh with a good distribution of polygons based on the main volumes. The ZSpheres gave a really funny look to the armature and to the adaptive skin (Fig.04).
At this point I was happy that the head was ready and had good, workable polygon distribution, so I was ready to start the sculpting process. I created the face sculpture without thinking about the polygons. I just imagined the mesh was clay and had some fun. The process was very intuitive and fluid. The most time-consuming part of this illustration was the face modeling. After four days I had a model that I was satisfied with (Fig.05).
I was happy with the result as I thought the resemblance was good and I had a good laugh. The laughs ended though when I saw the boring task that was waiting for me. The polygon topology wasn't good. When I tried to increase the polycount to paint details like wrinkles, the polygons simply didn't have enough resolution where I needed it. So I had some fun with the modeling but was later punished because of the retopology... Ok, I deserved that! I spent about five hours crying and then a couple of hours sorting out the topology. It actually wasn't too painful in the end. In fact it was very productive because with less polygons in the model it meant I could create a better mesh (Fig.06).
Finally with a good head and body mesh I could have some fun sculpting all the details. This step was really enjoyable! Two things are important at this point. Firstly, have a solid base mesh to work with. Secondly, be familiar with the workflow from ZBrush to Maya (as my intention was to render the caricature in Maya) (Fig.07).
I used the UVMaster to unwrap the mesh. Something that saved me from another boring task was to paint all the textures on the model. The hair, eyebrows and upper lip were three characteristics I gave special attention to as I thing they are important parts of his appearance. The teeth exaggeration was very important too. I recognized at this point that maybe I was a little bad and took it too far. Maybe I will burn in hell... but come on! Those who don't laugh can cast the first stone! Just kidding... (Fig.08).
One map that I like to paint is the Scatter map. It was among several maps generated for the material setup. To export the maps and meshes I used the Multi Map Exporter Zplugin. All that was left to do then was to export the maps and meshes to Maya (Fig.09).
I used Shave to create the hair, eyebrows and arm hair. I combined this with the painted color texture to get a better result (Fig.10).
The last thing that I did was to add sweat drops and some specular highlights to the image. In my mind Ronaldo was celebrating a goal scored during a match, so I decided to add this little detail. Using the Paint Geometry tool in Maya, I added the sweat to the model. In ZBrush I painted a sweat Specular map and exported it back into Maya (Fig.11).
With all the materials ready, I moved on to illuminating the scene.
Lighting and Rendering
Even though I wasn't planning to put a crowd in the final image, the location that I had imagined was a soccer stadium, where there are many light sources. I worked with a main and a secondary light to reproduce this. Besides that, I used several spot lights to highlight some of the detail, like the eye specular and the shirt material.
One approach that I used was to use auxiliary geometry light sources with Final Gather to obtain a soft rim light and ground light bounce. I put two surfaces behind and one below the model, filled them with a bright incandescence color and disabled Primary Visibility. Turning on Final Gather meant that these surfaces behave like light sources, creating nice soft lights (Fig.12).
To render the scene I used mental ray in Maya, and separated some render passes. The hair and fur I rendered in a totally separated pass because it increased the render time so much. I like to render a normal pass to use in Photoshop to help when making corrections later. In this image I used it to improve the rim light in the final appearance and to highlight some unwanted dark areas (Fig.13).
I composed the final image in Photoshop, making some color adjustments and adding some post effects like glows and depth of field. For the background I choose to use a Bokeh effect representing a crowd full of flashing cameras.
This illustration was a very enjoyable and instructive experience. The final result could do with a lot of improvements. Every time I look at it I see something that could be better, but I am also very proud of it. Most of the people that look at this caricature have the reaction that I hoped for. There are also people who feel disgusted. This is nice too though, because I think that this work is disgusting. I think my tribute was to use disgusting work to show that I am a big fan of Ronaldo.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article! I hope you enjoyed it.