Making of 'Z14'
About 6 months ago, some guys in the company starting arguing over of a beer that it's impossible that a civilization that can travel 1,000 light years from a star, would come to earth and crash in Roswell. From this conversation we decided to produce, in our free time, a short film which will tackle the adventures of this event in the desert. This little critter here is the first of 5 characters that will be in the 4 minute long film.
The first step after defining the story of the film was to develop the different characters. Here's the final concept which was the main guide for the model:
The main application used for the whole development of the character was 3ds Max. Because there was never a precise timeline for the project, we started off poly modelling the head in Max 8 and then we decided to hit Max 9.
Having a cartoon character with a very dynamic personality presents several challenges when modeling because of the wide range and unexpected movements that it will require. The most difficult part to model was the face; the loops were very important because we were not using morph targets for facial animation, so we needed a very clean flow from the loops so we could achieve a wider range of expressions than what we could get from the relatively low poly geometry.
All the textures were hand painted in Photoshop, separating the diffuse, bump, glossiness and specular maps. The whole process was very straight forward, and the UVW was done using Roadkill, which is free and a very handy tool!
We took special care with the lighting setup because we wanted to achieve a different lighting than just a plain GI render, so we managed to assemble a hybrid setup with GI and direct lights for special areas, like in the eyes, to achieve that fine specular on them.
This is the most time consuming part of the project. Since we had a very wide range of expressions and movements planned for the film, the rig was designed to be as stable as possible, but also to be very handy and easy to learn and use for animators.
The facial rig is a full bone structure based on Paul Neale's technique. Pablo Mercado, our rigger, made a series of scripts for repetitive tasks like resetting rotations, deleting keys, selection tools, etc. He also designed a small tool that, with a single button, you get the controls and a special UI for facial animation.
The body rig is a mixture of Paul Neale's and Victor Vinyal's approaches. Having the 2 schemes on one rig, we can handle very complex poses, very fast viewport feedback and blending FK/IK in hands and legs, independent squash and stretch controllers, finger and hands controls, etc.
The main Render engine used is V-Ray; all the materials are V-Ray materials with no special qualities like SSS or translucency.
We rendered the image 4000px high for printed applications.
At the moment we are working on 2 more characters, and we'll be happy to keep updated 3DTotal about this project!
Exodo Digital Workshop