Making Of 'The Marauder'
In this Making Of I will share some of the general concepts, ideas and problems I had throughout the project and hopefully inspire you to undertake large projects in order to push your own skills. The Marauder was a school project and because of that I had to meet a deadline. Looking back now on the whole process, there's some things I would do differently now, but more on that later on.
The basic idea behind this project was to strengthen my portfolio while pushing me in a direction I haven't done before. I've always loved the Blizzard games and cinematics and it's my dream to one day work on their cinematic team, so I made the decision to try and focus my effort to create something they might use in a cinematic. In the end I chose to do the Marauder unit from Starcraft 2 since I thought the design was recognizable and different from your standard robot suit soldier.
After I'd decided I wanted to make a Marauder unit, I started gathering reference images from all around the net. I first found all the concept and fan art of the Marauder I could; I even scanned my Starcraft 2 art book in order to get an idea about how this guy actually looks from all angles. I opened the cinematic in-game model in the Starcraft 2 map editor and had a look around and took some screenshots of it. I also collected different kind of mechanical references from nearly everything I could find. Here's a little preview of some of the 252 images I had in total (Fig.01).
The 3D Process
Now for the fun part! I'm a firm believer in doing a block-out of all my models before going into the hardcore sub-d modeling. The block-out serves as a template for my high-res geometry later on and also enables me to check out the silhouette and proportions of my model. Keeping the block-out geometry simple will allow you to quickly alter everything without problems (Fig.02).
When I was satisfied with my block-out, I went on to create my high-res geometry by isolating different parts of the block-out and started working on making them look great. Usually I was able to use the mesh my block-out was made of, but in some cases I had to recreate it in order to get the right topology so my mesh would smooth perfectly without creases. I used a lot of different modifiers to make my job easier when I was making some of the more advanced shapes. Bend, Shell, Turbosmooth and FDD were used on nearly all objects. For the modeling I used simple box modeling and the graphite modeling tools (particular the Swift Loop tool) to create all the geometry (Fig.03 - 07).
To add some interest to my final picture, I also decided to create some of the small scale details that you expect to see in a Blizzard cinematic (Fig.08 - 09).
When everything was modeled and checked, I did (due to time constraints) a quick material render with V-Ray (Fig.10) so I could finish the project inside Photoshop in time for the deadline. To assist me inside Photoshop, I also rendered out some multi-mattes using the Multi-matte render element (Fig.11).
With my render done, I started out by making general changes to the color of my materials and slowly started to add dirt to the different parts. I used different dirt images I found on websites like CGTextures or in my Total Textures collection and used the different layer blending modes to overlay them on top of my render. I used my Wacom tablet with a Grunge brush to mask out some of the areas in order to create some diversity (Fig.11).
For all the scratches I made a new adjustment layer that was masked to only affect the red metal and desaturated it so the metal became white and blank. I then made a layer mask and filled it with black so I could paint my scratches in the mask. This allowed me to work in a non-destructive manner and delete some of the scratches I didn't want.
I created a custom brush that had a very noisy border and made the size of the brush react to how hard I was pressing down the pen on my tablet. I then started to paint all the scratches and edges. To create a sense of thickness to my metal paint, I gave my scratch layer a little drop shadow with a distance of 0 to create a faked Ambient Occlusion and make it look like the scratches actually peeled away some of the paint and exposed the metal underneath (Fig.12).
The decals were first created inside Photoshop (Fig.13), then UVW mapped onto the model inside 3ds Max and then rendered where the entire model is black and the decals are white. This allowed me to quickly overlay them inside Photoshop using the Screen Layer blending mode. I then created a layer mask and used my scratch brush to chip some of it away.
I made some adjustments to the lighting using a classic warm/cold combination where the warm color comes in from the left and then turns into a cold color on the rim light on the right. This makes the image a bit more dramatic and also was a great supplement to the red metal of the Marauder.
I made the eyes and armor glow by first filling them with a white color and using Gaussian Blur to make the glow effect. I then came in with a soft brush and painted first a very orange glow around it and then a dark red to create the effect that the light is actually hot. This also meant I had to paint light on some of the edges that my fake light would hit (Fig.14).
I also used the Dodge tool to create highlights on the tubes that are connected to his chest and weapons in order to help them differentiate from the dark colors behind them. This also added some more interest and helped show the diamond pattern (Fig.15).
The background was made using some different grunge layers I found on the CGTextures website and the same goes for the smoke coming from the canons. After the background was done, I made some last minute color corrections and added a vignette and called the project done (Fig.16).
To sum the project up, it was a great ride. I learned so much and the project resulted in something I'm very proud of. The reception of the image on the internet has been astonishing, and the acceptance into the 3DTotal galleries was mind-blowing and has been a great motivation ever since.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Making Of and if you have any question regarding the project, feel free to email me and I'll try to respond as fast as I can.