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Making of the Conall

First and most important part is to imagine what you have to or what you want to create. After few hours I’ve chosen to sculpt werewolf. It’s half human, half animal and it has clothes. So many different issues to face up.


About 18 months ago I was looking for some online workshop to learn how to sculpt digitally, I wanted some workshop which really teaches you sculpting and not how to control your program, you can learn it from manual, but sculpting itself is about skill and experiences. I found that well-known sculptor Alex Oliver (http://www.alexoliver.art.br) is giving workshop like that. He taught me basics of sculpting and completely overturned my attitude to modeling. I found that it’s much easier for me to block out very basic box mesh in standard 3d package and as fast as possible start working in ZBrush, create all forms and shapes in it. I have to thank Alex for that, because from that time I felt in love with sculpting and I found out that this is what I want to do. In the spring 2009 I’ve seen announcement at CGSociety, that they are preparing CGWorkshop with Zack Petroc (www.zackpetroc.com) about Character design and sculpting, I was excited. That was next level for me and I always admired Zack for his work and that was unique way how to learn from master. I must confess that that was my next overturn. Zack taught us how he’s working on his digital maquettes. During this workshop I’ve created this  werewolf character called Conall and now I’ll tell you how he comes to life.


In the beginning I’ll explain what is digital maquette. Simply, it’s 3d design. It’s new approach how to develop movie, game and whatever character designs based on analog sculpture designs for movie industry, which are here for a long time. I think that is natural evolution of industry. Now it’s very simple and fast to convert drawn design into digital sculpture and it’s the biggest advantage is that’s easily adjustable. Can you imagine how much work is to change proportions of character in clay? In sculpting software it’s question of “few” clicks. So in conclusion, advantages of digital maquettes against analog approach are: speed, changeability, easy poseability, you can use it as a base for final production model. And of course when director wants to see your design in all angles and hold it in his hands, we have rapidprototyping. (Scott Patton, responsible for Avatar Na’vi designs, said that their are working only on 3d designs, no drawing character concepts in Legacy Effects now)

Inspiration & design

Finally after long introduction we can move to making of itself. First and most important part is to imagine what you have to or what you want to create. After few hours I’ve chosen to sculpt werewolf. It’s half human, half animal and it has clothes. So many different issues to face up. Long time I was searching for references of werewolves, I found about 50 pictures, concepts and movie creatures. After that we have to invent character’s character and backstory. That’s very interesting and useful thing, when you have backstory and few characteristics for you creature or whatever character, it helps you to expose it into your sculpt and design in future. I wrote backstory, which you can read below and than I checked my references and found most suitable werewolf. I chose Aaron Sims’s (http://aaron-sims.com) werewolf design for Skinwalkers movie, which I wanted to modify, I didn’t like head much. I also found a lot references for cloth, accessories, etc. And now comes time for sculpting.


It was in the evening about ten years ago. I was going home after visiting cinema in the middle of Prague. Clock on old church struck midnight. Nobody was on the street, quite strange. In one moment, some man, coming from by-street, run into me. He felt on ground, but he was immediately on is feet and run away, neither apology nor look at me. Then I recognized that he was chased by two other men, they were running extremely fast, the most frightening was, that they weren’t looking like humans, but I wasn’t sure, darkness covered the street. Shortly I was hit by enormous power, I scampered whole street to second pavement. Whole body hurt me. I fell unconscious. I woke up after an hour, found that I had no injury except few scratches on my chest. Now I know that was break point in my life and that these men weren’t humans, at least not at that moment. After two weeks tremendous pain woke me up. Moon was full. I can’t stand that pain. Something curious was with my body. My teeth started to grow, fingers were transforming and nails were twisting, my body started to cover with stiff fur. I was transforming into werewolf. I know them from books and movies, but I had no idea that they really exists. I can’t exactly know what happened that night, because pain was unstoppable. I woke up in the morning, my body was soaked by blood. Now ten years after that accident I’m alone. I don’t know other werewolves, I don’t want to. I’ve discovered world of creatures and beings living among us. I’m not killing men like other werewolves, I used to, because instinct was stronger then me, but I’m trying to fight against it, I’m trying to be on a bright side, I’m trying to turn my curse into profit. Vampires, that’s my envoi. I’m killing these beasts. I’m hunting them. During daylight I’m sleeping in my poor flat in basement in middle of Prague, I don’t need moonlight for mutation, I’ve learned how to control it. Every night, I’m trailing vampires in Prague streets. There is huge number of them and you don’t even know about them. Sometimes, usually during full moon period I kill poor man, I’m always frustrated about that, but I’m out of control during full moon, sometimes. But don’t be angry on me, I’m cleaning world from vampires, so a small number of victims is acceptable. What do you think?


As I said in the beginning I like to create as simple basemesh as possible. When you are preparing basemesh for sculpting try to make it without any particular topology, because it’s quite limiting during sculpting and sometimes topology is leading your strokes and that’s not good during creative process. Also try to make your mesh equally dens and use only quads. In the image you can see that basemeshes for all elements are very very simple. Now comes time to sculpting. I’ll not to tell you about every stroke, but I’ll give you some advices and tell you some rules. First of all sculpt as much as you can before you divide your mesh, be sure that you’ve done everything possible on current subdivide. Working on low resolution mesh in the beginning is easier and useful, you can easily sketch volumes and shapes. Then you can go more and more deep into details.

It’s also important to gather as much references as you can, especially about anatomy or cloth, everybody knows how human’s body and cloth look like, so everybody sees that’s something wrong with your model. Check your model from various angles as much as possible, it’s important to check shapes from all angles, only that can insure you, that’s your sculpt is looking right. Often check silhouette of your sculpt. Correct and good looking silhouette is very important because you character have to be easily readable, you have to recognize it in dark, lit only from backward etc. Design your sculpt in “half-pose”. It isn’t classic T-pose or A-pose which you know from production models, even this pose have to say something about your character. For example hero characters have chest in front of whole silhouette, lousy dude have his belly in front etc. Observe movies, games, paintings and of course reality all around you and try to find how are characteristics projected into half-pose. Half-pose will help you design and think about whole character before it’s posed into it’s typical pose. Sculpting cloth is chapter itself. It was quite pain for me, for example I’ve sculpted three different models of pants when I was finally satisfied with it. Find as more references as you can and try to observe where main folds are going and where little wrinkles are leading, finding right direction for them and find right place where to compress cloth is the key. And in the end some technical stuff. Mostly I’m using Move and Standard brushes for start, finding silhouette and shapes and then I’m using Clay Tubes, Clay and Pinch (brush mode -100) brushes. There is no science about sculpting, it’s only finding, trying, fixing and improving.


When you have final half-pose with everything you need, there comes time for posing. Try to find suitable pose and most predicative pose for your character. I tried two poses for werewolf. First one was defence pose, I created it during one evening, because I had to handle workshop deadline. I used Transpose Master to pose whole model with all the subtools. After that you have to refine muscles and cloth wrinkles to fit your pose, of course. Because I wasn’t satisfied with that pose I tried to create one, which is more action. He’s in the jump and attacking somebody. My friend told me that he’s looking like he’s catching a tram :). Because I wanted to make some renders and present this model to public I had to pay a lot attention to correct refining muscles and cloth, for example billowing vest, which helps to improve action, etc. After some time I was satisfied with pose and I tried to render out some clay renders, but I was told by my friends that I may add some textures. So I decided to make production render of action figure.


I wanted to try to paint textures by hand. I set up brush in ZBrush to look like airbrush. Spray stroke with small placement a slight color variation. And I started to paint entire model, before that I gathered a lot of references how action figures paint is looking like. For example not much detailed, deep “ambient occlusion”, big contrast etc. I tried to simulate this with ZBrush polypaint, so all textures are hand painted, only little structure was added to jeans. So as you can see texturing was quite simple.

Render & Postproduction

First of all I wanted tried to render whole sculpt in hires, because I didn’t want to use displacement, but I found that my 8GB RAM are not enough. So I exported quite dens meshes and used normal maps for tiny details. But though render took about 7GB RAM. I set up simple scene with background and stand. Then I chose suitable camera angle, I tried to use same lens which would be used in real world. Then begins fun part with lighting. I have to say that I was using mental ray and I was using linear workflow with Photographic exposure shader on camera, to make render as more real as I can. Materials are very simple Architectural. Final lighting setup was classic 3 lights setup, key (slightly orange), fill (almost white) and rim (blue) area lights. When I was satisfied with lighting I tried to make render and I rendered out depth channel. I used to make depth of field in postproduction using Nuke’s ZDepth and depth channel from render, but I wasn’t able to achieve proper result. There were weird issues on edges etc. So, because it’s static image, I decided to render dof. I used mental Bokeh shader and start playing with settings to find the most suitable look. When I was satisfied I rendered final image in A3 300DPI resolution and I also rendered ID pass for easy selecting parts of render and ambient occlusion pass. Then I rendered 4 other interesting camera angles. Postproduction was very simple. I achieved more dramatic look using quite intensive color correction. I also added slight glow, chromatic aberration, vignette and grain. In final I didn’t need ID pass to make local color corrections.


So this it the end of making of. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and that I gave you some useful advices. Here comes place to thank Alex and Zack for bringing me and showing me great world of sculpting. I also thank to my friends and colleagues for their advices and for their perpetual tendency to force me into work :) And I want also to thank you for reading this making of, if you have questions feel free to contact me at email below.

About the author

I’m 22 years old 3D artist, born in small city in southern Czech Republic, now living in capital Prague. I’ve met world of CG in approximately 2004. At 2006 I started my professional career, working as 3D generalist at local game studio Cinemax, after a year I moved to VFX industry into UPP (www.upp.cz) company. I have great occasion to learn from skillful guys there. I was working on lot of movies and commercial. For example Nutcracker: The untold story, Pandorum, 2012, Season of the Witch and Salt. After 2 years in UPP I decided to start my freelance career and I’m starting up my own freelance business, trying to focus especially on modeling, sculpting and texturing work. In future I want to became character artist for VFX, games or cinematic stuff.

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Email: janjinda@janjinda.com

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