Tag Archives: film noir

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

The Future Starts With You

The Future Starts With Youout of focus art SQUAREI’ve been using the same avatar across all of social media for many years.  It’s not very good.  If you look at the original it’s actually out of focus, but you can’t tell when it’s a teeny tiny avatar on facebook.  My wife CAT is in it too, which is nice.

I always intended to replace it but it was working, doing it’s job, so I didn’t.  When I shaved my beard over a year ago I thought, “Well now it doesn’t even look like me.  I really need to make a new one!”  But it was still working.  People still knew it was me.  So I didn’t change it.

Cut to a few days ago.  I was in DAZ Studio and I decided to experiment with different ideas for a new avatar.  I figured I could come up with some “concept art” and then take a picture of myself with the same theme, same lighting.  Simple.  Maybe even use the same CGI background so I wouldn’t have to deal with that in the photograph.  But, what to do?

What Makes a Good Avatar?

To all those people who have their kid, or their dog, or cat, or a movie star, or an anime character, or their feet, or a sports team logo, or Abe Vigoda in their avatar:  Nobody can figure out who you are!  I go through this all the time.  The name sounds familiar…  Did I know this person in college?  Did we grow up together on the same street?   Did we work together ten years ago?  Is that YOU as a kid?  Or is that YOUR kid?  Now I have to be a detective.  It’s frustrating.  Put your friggin’ face in your avatar!   /rant

Square One

I like an avatar with a big face so I started with that.  The bigger the better because sometimes these things are super small.  I decide to try something similar to what I have now, an evolution if you will – the same but better – a big face but a little arty and off to the side.  Centered is so boring.  I used a long 200mm lens to blur the background, making the face stand out.

The Future Starts With You BTS (mesh)I decided to go for hard side light with a blue kicker (back light) to give it a shadowy tech-noir feel.  I wanted the style to reflect my personality.  I’m one-hundred percent SciFi and my avatar should be too!

Reality Is an Illusion

I then spent a lot of time trying to get good skin.  There’s a trend in CGI these days.  Reality.  I think reality is overrated but in this case it makes sense.  An avatar is supposed to represent a real person.  …And it doesn’t hurt to learn new things.  I spent a lot of time experimenting with skin translucency, glossy reflections, roughness, bump maps, and scores of other surface controls.  Endless tweaking.  (Welcome to CGI.)  Ultimately I got something that looks like a real person.  The guy doesn’t look like ME, but he looks relatively real.

And then I put a glowing cross hair in the eye.  Screw reality!  I like robots!

The Future Starts With You BTS ccAbout-Face

And here it is.  It turned out much better than the “concept art” that I intended so I’ve decided to use it straight-up as my new avatar.  So to the people who have their kid, or their dog, or cat, or a movie star, or an anime character, or their feet, or a sports team logo, or Abe Vigoda in their avatar:  I’m now one of you!  My avatar is now a synthetic man that doesn’t look like me.  If you can’t beat ’em join ’em.  We’ll see if it works.

The Future Starts With You on facebook

Created in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
FWSA Aiden HD for Michael 7
SciFi Passageway
Awesome Fantasy Eyes

UPDATE:  After using my new CGI profile picture on facebook for awhile I started to dislike it.  More in this post: My quest for the perfect CGI avatar

Gimme Some Candy!!!

Gimme Some Candy!!!

This is just a quickie I did for Halloween.  I followed SickleYield‘s demo for creating volumetric lighting in DAZ Studio’s Iray.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done an effect like this. What do you think?

Created in DAZ Studio 4.8
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Jack Pumpkin
The Streets of Old London

A Collection of Rusty Robots

Can six rusty robots fight crime without driving each other crazy?

A Collection of Rusty RobotsThis one was complicated. Six characters and twenty-five lights.

I was trying to emulate a team freeze frame at the end of an anime intro. I wanted to capture the uniqueness of each character. I even wrote out a short description of each robot to help me differentiate them. Looking at this piece now though, I think it ended up a little too “characters just standing there.” It could do with a few more action poses, but it’s done now so here it is.

I’m going to post my usual more in depth behind-the-scenes info but that will have to wait a few days since this piece is so complicated. It’ll probably end up as multiple posts. For now I’ll leave you with the character descriptions I wrote. Let me know what you think!

Meet the team!

(from left to right)

Gomer is a wise guy. He always has an opinion and he doesn’t take lip from anybody. He thinks he’s the leader but nobody else listens to him. When attacking a bad guy’s hideout the others always make him crawl in thru the air ducts which pisses him off. He thinks Brigitte is “hot stuff.”

Barney is a “can do” fella. He can fix just about anything. Knows how to make explosives too. He gets the job done while the rest are goofing around. Currently he’s in a romantic relationship with Alice.

Alice is a fighter. She can swiftly and silently take out a whole gang of bad guys. She’s a bit fussy though and, unlike the others, she likes to stay clean. She avoids the general dirt and grime of crime fighting. She’s in love with Barney even though he always seems to be a bit dirty. It’s OK though because she’s confident she can change him.

Jim is the leader of the team. He’s a powerful warrior but is totally lost trying to get the rest of the team to work together. He thinks Alice is his girlfriend even though she wants nothing to do with him. Alice thinks Jim is too full of himself.

Brigitte is a master of disguise and can wear a rubber mask to look human. She doesn’t really enjoy fighting crime but she hangs around because she likes Jim. Gomer is in love with Bridget but she can’t stand him.

Gronk (AKA “Five”) has a powerful Plasma Death Ray to blast holes in buildings and blow up cars. He wants to do more but doesn’t really have the ability. He trys.

Buy a print here –> http://www.deviantart.com/print/38109712/

Love Is Not Enough

love is not enoughAdvanced lighting class!  A black suit against a dark background and forties film noir style glamor lighting on the face.  I’m now comfortable setting lights, well the spotlight at least, which is the most like a real Fresnel movie light.  Still not too sure about some of the other style lights available in the program.  I tried using a point light as a fill light and it was a disaster, very unrealistic looking.  I’m going to stick to spotlights for interior lighting.  Wish they had barn doors to make a quick slash on the wall.  I made a “flag” with a flattened solid primitive cube though and that worked.

The background is actually a scifi medical bay set with diagnostic beds and everything.  I spent hours trying different background lights but eventually settled on leaving it dark with only the computer monitors lit.  It just seems more mysterious that way.  It’s the same on a movie set.  If the lighting isn’t working you’re probably using too many lights.  Turn some off and see what it looks like.  Chances are it will be better.