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Making of 'Billy Bob Boone'

By Richard Rosenman
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Date Added: 26th October 2009
Software used:
ZBrush
876_tid_zbrush_character_head.jpg

Introduction

Welcome to the making of "Billy Bob Boone".  This tutorial walks you through a brief explanation of the steps involved in creating this character, from start to finish.  It is recommended that you understand the fundamentals of computer graphics and animation, as this is meant for intermediate to advanced users.

"Billy Bob Boone" started off as an idea for the "Strange Behavior" competition, held in late 2007.  The idea was to create an image in which oddity is captured in any way, shape or form.  Since I specifically enjoy character development, my idea was to develop oddity through expression - to create a very odd-looking character with a very unusual expression.

Pre-production

As with any character, the very first incarnation is always created on paper.  Fig.01 shows a rough sketch of the initial idea, and it's interesting to see how it will evolve throughout the development process.

It is important to notice that the sketch is very loose, as are all my initial designs.  I find that gestural drawings tend to capture much more emotion and expression than a finely-tuned one.

876_tid_concept_sketch_01.jpg
Fig. 01


Production

As soon as I'm pleased with a concept, I immediately start working in ZBrush.  To me, ZBrush has proven to be the most artist-friendly modelling package I've ever used.  Since I am only an intermediate ZBrush user, I decided to improve my modelling skills by developing this character directly from ZSpheres - completely from within ZBrush, as opposed to importing a base mesh.

ZSpheres provide a very powerful and versatile method of modelling for artists using ZBrush.  Generally speaking, spheres are placed in any arrangement and connected together to form a rough skeleton.  An adaptive mesh can be displayed at any time over the spheres, thus allowing you to create base meshes very quickly and easily.  If you don't like what you see, you can simply re-arrange any of the spheres and see how this affects your adaptive mesh.  ZSpheres offer many more powerful features than just that, but since I'm using it strictly for modelling, I will limit the discussion to this.

Once I have arranged the ZSpheres to form a base mesh that I'm pleased with, I collapse the model in order to start working with it.  Fig.02 shows the very first mesh generated by the ZSpheres. Looking at this, you'd wonder how on earth any respectable model could be developed from it.  The poly-count is extremely low but this is important for us so that we have a lot of play with the forthcoming subdivisions.

876_tid_zbrush_modeling_02.jpg
Fig. 02

The unique feature of ZBrush is that it allows you to be able to use a low polygon mesh and continue subdividing it until you have enough polygons to fully-sculpt with it.  Once you're finished, you convert the high density mesh to a displacement map and achieve the same results but with a significantly lower-density mesh. What this means, for me, is that I will start with the lowest density mesh I can, sculpt it until I get a shape that I like, and finally subdivide it again.  This will continue until I reach a level in which I can sculpt all the details I would like to add to the character (or until your computer decides to explode!).

When the base mesh has been sculpted into a shape I am pleased with (Fig.02), I subdivide and continue my modelling process.

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