I have always thought that the Steampunk theme is a very interesting one. When CG Society decided to make a new challenge using this subject, I asked myself: why not give it a try?
I chose Pinocchio because he is a well-known character and because of his artificial nature. He is a wooden marionette, so I imagined it would be nice to turn him into a mechanical steam robot. In this version, Geppetto is a mad and lonely old man. Since he has no friends at all, he decided to make one. With no magic or abracadabra stuff, he brings his creation to life with steam power. I didn't want to make these characters too similar to any existing representation. That's why Geppetto is fat and with a crazy look.
From the beginning I wanted to focus on creating an easy to understand composition that looked simple and had nice details. Pinocchio was going to be the main character and then he would lead the spectators' attention to Geppetto.
I did some research and tried out some sketches until I came up with this one (Fig.01). It is more a sketch than a concept, but it was still useful to get my idea down. I knew from this point on that I wanted to make a realistic caricature, with a strong expression and movement.
I started the modelling with Pinocchio. He had a very basic shape, formed by simple geometry. I placed the primitives to set his proportions and refined each one of them to reach the final form (Fig.02).
Before I finished the model, I placed him in his final position, which can be seen in Fig.03. The posed Pinocchio helped me to find the right camera position and set the proportions of the environment. For me, working with posed models in the final camera view is the best way to see which details will have focus in the scene. In turn, this avoids wasting time by making unnecessary elements. The box on the left is a proportion reference for Geppetto.
With the camera and environment proportion set, it was time to start Geppetto. He was much more complex to model because of his pose and expression. I wanted to make a strong and exaggerated pose expressing strength and madness, but at the same time he had to have a cartoonish look.
I started by making a base mesh in a neutral position and then made a basic rig to sketch out his pose, which I refined in ZBrush (Fig.04). It was easier for me to bring an already posed mesh into ZBrush to tweak it.
I made the goggles with box modelling and positioned them according to Geppetto's first low poly pose (Fig.05). There was no special technique to making the goggles. I based them on some references taken from the internet and started to model them from two cylinders. They were very fun to make. The eyes were very important for this character because they showed his personality. He is crazy, so I wanted to make very big, rounded eyes refracted by the goggles.
Refracting the original eyes through the goggles looked weird, so I made a separated mesh for the eyes and eyelids, as in Fig.06, closer to the lens. When this mesh was refracted, it gave an exaggerated effect.
Back in ZBrush, I started to add the details to Geppetto (Fig.07). When Geppetto was done, I simply exported the higher poly mesh back to Max. It wasn't necessary to work with a displacement map. I think a very high poly is lighter to render than a mesh with Mental Ray displace.