Tag Archives: fantasy

Mister Zero

Mister ZeroMy eternal quest for the perfect CGI avatar continues.  I’ve grown tired of my current avatar artwork.  People think it’s a picture of me and I have to explain that it’s CGI.  I need something that doesn’t look human.  Perhaps something creepy…

What to do?

Mannequins and faceless people have always freaked me out ever since I was young.  I attribute that to this scene from Star Trek…

charliexhd487crop…and the Anything People on Sesame Street.

A freaky “no face” avatar would be cool and no one would think it was supposed to be me.  Perfect!

Building a Mannequin

I started with a faceless character model I had and I replaced the skin like surface with a different shader.  I experimented with many, many different surfaces trying to find something cool.

no face shader test 01I tried cloth, wood, metal, rock, plastic, glass, grunge, paint, rubber, wax, anything I could think of.

no face shader test 02I tried to avoid chrome because I had done that several times in the past but in the end I caved, because I really liked this particular dusty anodized aluminum surface.

no face 02 chrome headI posed the figure tipping his hat with a 1960s fedora.  I wanted him to be creepy and friendly at the same time.  A sloppy overcoat and loose necktie seemed to fit so I added that too.

no face 01 test 03 dome and sceneGive that man a hand

The fingers of the alien no-face character were creepy long, which looks OK but I like to make everything difficult so I decided to try and replace the hand with one that was human sized.

To do that I had to add another entire human sized figure and position the hand in the same place, grabbing the hat.  It took awhile but I got it into position.  Then I “turned off” (made invisible) the rest of that human character.  For the no-face character I turned off the hand.  The sleeve of the jacket was just long enough to hide the fact that the arm and hand didn’t meet exactly correctly.  Everything came together when I layered the same aluminum shader on the human hand.

hand shader tile 08 looks goodDramatic Light

The lighting was difficult because of the reflective metal on the face.  I ended up with a lot more spotlights than usual for a simple head shot just to get the reflections right.  There are seven spot lights on the character and one blue spot on the background, which is just a gray wall panel.

no face BTS lights After rendering it out I pumped up the color a little in Lightroom…

Mr Zero cc lightroom BTS…and uploaded the avatar to Facebook.

facebook avatar

Unfortunately I saw almost immediately that you couldn’t tell what the picture was at very small sizes.  It was the high contrast lighting, the same problem I had before on my first CGI avatar.  It looked fine at larger sizes but when it was super tiny the bright shine of the face looked like an unrecognizable white blob on a blue background.

Flat Light

I went back into DAZ Studio and tried to even out the lighting.  The best way was to set up a few more lights to fill in the dark spots.  I didn’t like it as much when I was done but I rendered it out anyway just to test it on facebook.  This is the “flat light” version.Mister Zero (flat light)It worked better at small sizes as you can see but still not as well as other avatars I’ve created.  Humans are programed to recognize faces easily, which is why facebook can make their avatars so small.  I’m asking people to recognize “no face” so I guess that’s more difficult.

facebook flat light avatar 02So it sort of works at the tiny sizes and doesn’t look as good as it could at larger sizes.  I guess that makes this avatar attempt a bit of a failure.  I still like it though, so I’m going to keep it for a time before I try again.  I can also upload the first version to other sites that don’t have such small avatars.  What do you think?

Mister ZeroCreated in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
The Slim Man for Genesis 3 Male
Mec4d PBS Shaders vol.3 for Iray
Amazing Hat
Eldritch Seeker

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Set the Controls for the Heart of the SunI’ve been wanting to do an abstract piece for some time.  I love the way this came out.  I’ll definitely be doing more art like this in the future.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun BTS wireframeThere’s not much to say about this piece. It’s pretty straight forward.  The light is from the HDMI which is essentially a gradient with a bright spot that becomes the “sun.”  The gradient did create a very slight banding across the sky and I had to bring the piece into photoshop to add some noise to try and smooth it out.  That was the only postwork I did in Photoshop.  You can still see the banding a bit but it’s much better than it was.  You can see the grain actual size behind the mountain in the color correction image if you click to embiggen it.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun BTS ccI tried to make the ground look like ice by playing with the Metallic Flakes Weight setting in the Surfaces tab.  All in all I’m very happy with this one.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Minor post in Photoshop
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Blank Boi
Planet X-3
Mec4d PBS Shaders vol.2 for Iray
Wireframe and Hologram Shaders

 

Goodbye Cruel World

Goodbye Cruel WorldThis image was created by mistake.  Occasionally while you are working in DAZ Studio the materials and shaders get screwed up, disappear, turn solid white, etc. and have to be reset.  This happened while I was creating I Spit My Last Breath At Thee.  I was trying out a wet body geometry shell attempting to make it look like sweat and as I was adjusting it the guy’s skin material disappeared.  The water droplets created a ghostly transparent shell and you could see the inner mechanisms of the mouth and eyes.  Creepy!  So I set up a camera close on the face and rendered it out at high quality.  A happy accident.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.8
Rendered with 3Delight
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Gianni 6
Wet Body Geometry Shells
Kaylum Hair

I Spit My Last Breath At Thee

I Spit My Last Breath At TheeMy wife CAT suggested the idea of a man fighting a dragon some time ago.  It’s been banging around in my head but I wasn’t sure how to compose the characters in the heat of battle and still see both of their faces.  I had a few false starts that really didn’t work but then DAZaholics, one of my favorite groups over on Deviant Art, announced a weekly challenge with the theme: Trial By Combat.  I strapped myself to a chair Monday morning with the goal of figuring this one out.  Apparently the challenge worked because by Monday evening the pieces were all fitting together quite nicely.  I had the basic construction of the piece, but if I wanted to enter the contest I would have to finish and upload it by Thursday 7AM Pacific time.

Vertical Integration

That first day I focused mostly on the character poses, facial expressions, and camera position.  I wanted to try a vertical frame which I had never done before.  As a filmmaker I’m used to a horizontal frame and I wasn’t sure if I could make it work.  I also wanted to keep the shot as close as possible for the most dramatic impact.  Ultimately that meant losing the shield off the edge of frame but It felt so much more dramatic in close.

dragon BTS 00I’m spending more and more time in these pieces getting the expressions right.  It’s not easy.  There are hundreds of morph sliders to adjust and it’s hard to get a realistic expression on a human.  Lots of tedious work with breaks to keep perspective.  Much of the dragon’s expression is due to the shape of the head so I concentrated on that, and getting the eyes right.  For our hero, I just kept at it over the three days.

dragon BTS 01One Light (or six)

The light was tricky.  It’s outdoors so it’s basically just one light, the Sun.  I wanted to dramatically rake the light across the guy’s chest but at the same time I needed to get the light in his eyes and illuminate the dragon’s face as well.  I found a position that worked but it took some doing including adjusting the characters a bit.  Unfortunately that left the sword arm in darkness under the wing.  To bring it out a bit I shot a warm spotlight up from below simulating  a reflection from the ground.  I set another cool spotlight from the left to simulate skylight.  That highlighted the ribbing on the dragon’s wing and added a nice rim light on the side of the guy’s chest.

The dragon’s eyes are very deep set.  It was impossible to get the sun in there so I also aimed two spotlights at just the eyeballs.  I’ve been doing this for awhile now, especially with robots.  It gives the eyes a nice glow.

dragon BTS eyelightsWhat the hell is a Cucoloris?

Another first for me in this piece was the use of a “cookie.”  I added a dapply light grayscale image I found to the Opacity Strength of a plane primitive (in the surfaces tab) and used it to break up the light on the dragon’s torso.  This darkened the area behind the guy’s left shoulder and side making him pop forward.  A few other “flags” and “nets” (semi-transparent planes) took care of other hot spots on the dragon.

dragon BTS cookie

Battle Damage

The body scars and blood smears were several separate add on products I bought at DAZ.  They had a lot of customization in terms of the types of injuries, color and size, but not much when it came to placement.  I would have liked some scratches on the right thigh and I needed more at the belt line where the dragon was grabbing him.  Maybe there’s a way to move the scratches but I think that would end up being a huge manual slider nightmare.  Anyway they worked for the most part.

I also used a Vascularity product to make it look like our hero was straining and his veins were popping out.  It caused a lot of problems though.  The veins kept popping through the clothing, especially the right arm and leg straps.  The veins screwed up the scratches and blood smears too.  Lots of fiddling with tons of sliders eventually fixed all that up.  It was worth it though, the veins really sell it.

dragon BTS vascularityLeft-wing Decisions

I spent a lot of time debating the dragon’s wing at the top right.  I set it there to look like our hero was surrounded.  I think it also works moved out of the way with a clear sky above, with our hero looking for a path to heaven, if you will.  It’s certainly simpler that way…  I don’t know.  I’m still second-guessing my decision to leave it.  I just hope the wing isn’t too distracting hanging up there.

dragon BTS lightroomThe End of the Line

I eventually stayed up all Wednesday night fiddling with details.  It was starting to look quite good and I didn’t want to upload it before I had smoothed out all the problem areas.  I managed to render it out of DAZ Studio, color correct it quickly in Lightroom, and upload it to Deviant Art an hour before the deadline!  What do you think?

Created in DAZ Studio 4.8
Rendered with 3Delight
Color Correction in Lightroom

Models used (from DAZ3D.com):
Gianni 6
DAZ Dragon 3
Peter for G2M
Dry Mud Desert
Body Scars for G2
Dirt and Blood for genesis and G2
Fantasy Weapons collection 3