Making Of 'Rusty'
I find the creative process for character design very satisfactory. I do extensive research on most projects before starting any 3D activity. I applied a different approach in this specific piece of work. I followed an alternative method to trigger imagination, rather than perfection or accuracy in reference. I find this process quite valuable, especially when I want to condense character emotion and essence into simple forms.
Before putting the pen on paper, I think about the feeling and emotion I want to represent with a character. I then make simple strokes that would represent the emotion I'm looking for. I start as most of you, with a block of paper, but instead of using a pencil, I use a pen. By using a pen, I make myself repeat a stroke when I think it does not represent the feeling I'm looking for. The repetition of the stroke refines it, and triggers imagination on each repetition.
I wanted to create a character with elegance and confidence. I also wanted it to have a touch of humor. I took my pen and started doodling curves. I came up with an S form, and right away I was able to imagine different animals from this curve. I thought first of a sea-horse, a serpent, a duck, and a rooster. I chose to make a rooster.
I chose to make a rooster with a twist. A rooster is normally portrait as a representation of masculinity and confidence. I wanted to create a rooster with those and other qualities that would make him unique. I wanted him to look cute and lovely, instead of aggressive and cocky.
The following image shows some sketches of the early design stage. This shows that I was focused on the "S" curve. In this process I came up with the rooster idea, as well as other ideas that triggered other characters and projects.
I began the rooster making the "S" form for of the body. I made the mouth as a separate mesh. The mouth is big and gives him strength. I made him a simple crazy crest. It is simple, and it breaks away the formality and elegance of his body. I gave him small feet to make him look delicate. I added a big eye socket to give him a strong personality. The detail on the neck gives him some elegance. At the end, I tweaked certain parts to accentuate his personality.
Once Rusty was finished, I didn't know what shot angle I wanted for Rusty. So I created his environment first. I made him a barnyard. It takes more time to do all the environment first, and then decide what part of the environment to show. It however, gives you more freedom in experimentation. At the end, I chose from several camera shots the one I like the most. Here is an image showing the barnyard.
Once the barnyard was finished, I made some mountains. Here is a small explanation on how I did them. A similar process can be applied to other objects to make them uneven. I started with a 1 km plane and divided it 10 times. To make the plane, I used the toolbox and I specified there the number of divisions I wanted.
To create the bumps I used a tool called "Jitter". This tool "shakes" the polygons or points selected, making the mesh uneven. I used a "Normal" type of Jitter. "Normal" stands for the type of movement that will be done to the selection. Normal Jitter displaces the polygons along the normal axis of the polygons. This way the polygons will move up and down, but not sideways.
Once I had the bumpy terrain, I realized that I wanted part of that terrain to be flat. I selected the middle points of the plane, and used the "Stretch" tool to flatten the middle area.
I then realized that I wanted the surrounding terrain to look bumpier. With the points still selected, I inverted the selection of points, and applied once again some Normal Jitter.
I used FPrime 2.1 to render it. It is very easy and fast to use radiosity and Global Illumination with FPrime 2.1. I used 3 bounces for the 3 lights in this setup. The GI (Global Illumination) is a combination of blue and pink. The light on top gave me some good contrast and ambient shadows. While the lights on the right where used to create a Sun. The little one projected the strong shadow. The yellow big light on the right was used to create a sunset feeling.
To tweak the intensities of the lights I use a process similar to one applied in real life. With a real camera, we can tweak its settings in order to get what is called "White Balance". In real life we use a neutral gray card (128,128,128 in RGB), and position it in front of our camera. We then zoom in, and balance the camera settings in order to make that card appear almost white in our viewer. It mostly involves tweaking the aperture, exposure and color balance.
This process can be imitated in Lightwave and other 3D applications. I first textured the entire scene with a neutral gray (128, 128, 128 in its RGB channels). Instead of tweaking the camera in Lightwave, I tweaked the lights. I tried to make that gray texture look almost white through my virtual camera. In this case, the wood planks where almost going white since the angle of the wood planks is the same of the area light that is projecting the sun. The trick relies in finding a balance in the "exposure" of all subjects portrayed.
On the left image we can see the scene textured with a neutral gray (128,128,128 in RGB channels). The image on the right shows only Rusty textured in neutral gray. It shows how radiosity is working over the gray texture.
Once the lighting was done, I added some DOF (Depth of Field) to the camera. It is fairly easy to setup DOF in Lightwave. Once activated under the Camera Properties, a dotted circle appears. This tells us where the image will be sharp and focused. So I made this line "touch" Rusty. I then setup a Lens F-Stop of 8.0.
FPrime speeds up the process of tweaking and refining textures and lights. With FPrime we can see changes in real time. We can zoom in and out using FPrime preview window. This allows me to tweak surfaces in detail. We can have at the same time more than 1 rendering window opened. FPrime starts with a grainy render, and as seconds pass by, grain goes away. This image shows Fprime results after less than 1 minute.
I used only procedural texturing for this image. For the grass, I applied several layers of procedural textures based on incidence angle, slope, light incidence and color to produce the grass. This gave the surface a softer look, and richer bounced colors.
I also made a procedural wood. It would have been easier to make an UV mapped wood for each plank. I however wanted to practice some procedural texturing. I kept a base of the resulting procedural wood texture. Then I made variances to the texture, and applied a different version to each wood plank. This gave the wood a subtle variety, making things less uniform but keeping the attention focused on Rusty.
Rusty texture was a bit tricky. There was no SSS applied to rusty. It was all done using color, diffuse and luminosity changes based on incidence angle to camera and lights. This made the white texture look more interesting to the eye, and gave more volume to Rusty.
Post - Processing
I always try to keep post-processing to the minimum. If the post-processing can be done for animation, I then do it. This is a healthy habit. When dealing with animation, it is not possible (or time consuming) to correct frame by frame. Learning post-processing that can not be applied to a sequence of images is not healthy. You can however alter things as brightness, contrast, saturation and levels to a whole sequence in programs as After Effects. That is the type of post process I allow myself in programs as Photoshop, since I know it can be migrated easily for animation in programs as After Effects.
Good post processing starts with good ordering. It is always a good habit to keep all layers ordered in categories. Here is an image showing different folders that contain the different layers of post-processing.
Furthermore, it is important to apply pos- processing with "non-destructive" techniques. Generally filters in Photoshop are applied directly to an image. If you decide to go back and correct or tweak a filter, you can't once you save the file. A non- destructive change is the one that is applied to a layer other than the original image. It keeps the original image intact. By doing changes this way, you can go back and change any post-processing done in a more focused way. It also gives you the ability to change a low-res image with a final high res image on the fly. This allows you to do post-processing using a low res file, while you are still rendering the final high-res image.
In the following image we can see that there is a layer of "Color Balance". This layer can be tweaked by double clicking it. With this, we can return and change values as we please. Take also note that the original image is kept intact at the bottom of the layers.
Post processing should save time. In this case, I decided to use it to alter values in brightness and contrast, as well as some variation in saturation. Doing it directly in Lightwave would be time consuming. I also used the alpha channel of the image to position some clouds on the backdrop. as a final touch, I added a signature reading "Rusty". In the following image you can see the difference of the original and post processed image.
Original render Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â With Photoshop filters
This is the final image! I hope you liked the explanation of how I made it, as well as the final result!