Howdy! I'm Adam Ross and I'm the head of the digital department at McFarlane Toys and occasional freelance modeller (non-competition, of course). In this Making Of article I'm going to go through the entire process of taking my model from digital to reality, utilising a cadre of software packages and one nice rapid prototyping machine!
This project began as a pie-in-the-sky idea I had shortly after I saw the original artwork by Marvel artist Mark Brooks. I've always been a fan of polystone statues and, even though I was a fan, I had never seen MJ portrayed the way that Mark had drawn her. She was sexy, she was innocent, she had a big frakin' gun! After deciding that I wanted to bring this piece into 3D, I got in contact with Mark directly to ask his permission. Even though this wasn't a piece to make any money, I always ask the artist's permission as a professional courtesy along with providing them with a copy or two for themselves. Needless to say, Mark was all for it.
I know that many folks start with the lowest res model possible to begin their sculpts and then retopologise before finalising the piece. As I've created a large collection of base models over the years, I tend to go back to those to get started. I regularly update them as my needs and specs change, and will even Frankenstein them together when necessary. MJ was one of these cases where I had a workable base model and ended up replacing the head with one I had completed more recently. You can see the base model (Fig.01) along with its high-res progression. I don't bother with correct musculature at this point, but rather mass it out into a good starting point from which to work after it's posed. I also extracted the clothing (if you can call it that) from the base mesh.
I typically use the Standard, Clay Tubes and Move brushes to rough things out and usually never go beyond a subdivision level of 4 up to this point. From here I go back into Maya and model all of the hard surfaces and accessories that will be going with the piece; these included the stool, the handgun and the base. After appending these as Subtools, I begin the process of posing and finalising the model.
I had just been made aware of Transpose Master, and it truly made life easier! I was easily able to pose her and go back in to correct/refine the musculature (Fig.02). I say "correct", but as each artist has his/her own way of stylistically representing anatomy, my goal was to copy this as closely as possible. I only make true corrections when the artist has cheated the anatomy for the sake of the 2D piece.
I quickly realised that the base was a little bland, so I contacted Mark Brooks once again to pitch an idea. Since the piece was reminiscent of the cheesecake pinups, I proposed doing an innocent looking doll of Venom. What mark sent me is pictured in Fig.03, a perfect complement to the piece!
And the finished model along with the original low-res (Fig.04).
Now I append the Venom doll to the rest of the project and voila! It now maintains its visual interest from top to bottom (Fig.05 – 06). I'm still using the same tools at this point, some may think it's limiting but I've found that the three brushes that I use in the beginning usually carry me through an entire piece. The only thing that I'll change is the alpha that I'm using, which in turn allows me to emulate other brushes, such as Layer, Ram and so on.
Now, since the goal of this was to print it out on a 3D printer, I had to keep several things in mind:
- Each piece has be watertight, with no holes
- Watch for extreme undercuts, as all pieces have to be moulded and cast
- Pieces need to be constructed/designed to be cut at logical places, or places where the seams can be hidden
All of these were things that I worked on throughout the process, beginning to end. Modelling watertight is a habit that you get into over time. The others are things you learn through experience. As it relates to undercuts (i.e. hair, folded arms, Venom's teeth) I will make cuts to the model in another program that eliminates the problem, or I resolve myself to backfilling the little things (teeth) manually after print.