I decided to add the space background in the composit so my render preparations were pretty simple. First I had to do a basic rig for the character (Fig.09) and pose him. I did the same with the scenery - all the models were linked and I could then position the signs as I liked. Props (such as the backpack for the character) were skin-wrapped to the parent model.
Now I could position the elements, introduce the lights and set up Indirect Illumination. A total of three mr Area Omni lights were used, each with a different light color (light yellow, blue and red) while just one light cast shadows. Final Gather was enabled with mr Photographic Exposure Control defined. The image was scaled to meet the format for most online CG portals.
The final pose is something that took a while to get down. I tried to avoid a classic contra-pose and opened the character to the camera. The second thing that was important was not to over-emphasize the importance of the character in regards to the context. The comet deserved the same attention (Fig.10 - 11). When the pose was done, I set the composition out of balance (Fig.12) and I could now start with the rendering.
The scene was divided into several output channels: Diffuse (with and without lighting), AO, Lighting pass, Reflection, Self Illumination, Specular, Shadow and Z-Depth, with a couple of matte passes that were used to mask specific parts assigned to a specific channel. The background, sun rays and comet mist were painted later and grain was added in the finish. Fig.13 and Fig.14 show the compositing stack adjusted for the final image (Fig.15).
Production of this image taught me a lot. First of all, if you organize your workflow and know how to save time you won't waste additional minutes modeling something you can redefine from earlier projects (for example). Secondly, you need to have your priorities straightened out before you go into production. When you have limited time to produce something don't hang on to a value that can't be executed in the given time frame, such as realistic textures or organic modeling, hang on to your idea and make it visible through the image you display. Have fun with it! To conclude I will quote one of my favorite artists who said one of my favorite sentences: "Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution".
For additional images please visit the original WIP thread: