It’s been a bit quiet here while I’ve been tangled up in other projects. Thankfully one of my clients has been kind enough to let me show off the work I’ve been doing with them.
The project is for an exhibit in Northern Tasmania to do with the Chinese Tin Miners who migrated there in the 1800’s. The exhibit uses animation and live action to tell a story around some of the migrants.
Among other things, I get to make a 3D animated Chinese ‘Tin’ Dragon.
I’m using 3 separate pieces of software, Lightwave, PMG Messiah and ZBrush. The process of getting those three working together has been a long one for me, as often you need to do some digging to find what you need to know and it was my first time using ZBrush.
So it goes a little something like this, initial modeling in Lightwave, rigging and animation in PMG Messiah, Texturing and additional detail modeling in ZBrush, final surfacing and rendering in Lightwave.
I’d sat on my copy of ZBrush for quite a while waiting for the opportunity to use it, never finding the time between other projects to play. I really regret that now as it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
ZBrush lets you take your low detailed 3D model and make it a highly detailed sculpture, which you can then export for animation etc. The interface is a little alienating at first, as it doesn’t follow the standard Windows way of working. I found this excellent guide by Steve Warner for getting Lightwave objects into and out of ZBrush, as well as how to get started in ZBrush itself. It’s a little out of date though, and I found I had to trawl both the ZBrush and lightwave forums to discover that some things had been streamlined and actually work better now.
Couple of tips….
Tip#1: Ensure your starting mesh has enough density to support the detail you create in ZBrush, even in places where you would usually reduce polygons for reasons of economy.
Tip#2: Install all the ZBrush plugins, they’re free and add some amazing capabilities to the arsenal, like being able to paint on a ZBrush ‘screen grab’ in Photoshop, then apply that painting in ZBrush.
ZBrush itself makes 3D modeling feel like sculpting and painting, it’s no wonder it’s become so popular.
So in the end I was able to go from the initial Lightwave model…
While we worked from statues and illustrations of Chinese Dragons, an important factor for me was to ensure it is a living animal. I took the view that the Chinese paintings and sculptures were an interpretation of reality, as if the artist had seen a Dragon and then tried to paint or sculpt what they’d seen flying past and the best we were getting was brief eye witness sightings. Otherwise I would just be making a moving statue, or a cartoon.
My paleoart dabblings led me to do things like add a caudofemoralis muscle, as well as ensuring as much of the anatomy as possible made sense and worked.
That’ll do for now, I’ll be back with a bit more on this project soon!
PS: I’m not sure how much technical information people might want about this process, so if you’re interested in knowing more pop me a question in the comments.