3DTotal: With regards to texturing, do you unwrap any of your characters or do you use a more procedural approach using materials and shaders?
I usually completely unwrap my characters and sometimes I mask localized areas and apply some procedural maps in addition to the existing texture maps to increase the detail for close-ups.
3DTotal: What are the typical timeframes given for creating a character from modeling through to texturing and what aspects do you enjoy the most? Alessandro: We have very tight scheduling when it comes to characters. It really depends if the character is background or a hero character, but the timeframes usually vary from 8 to 16 days for modeling, texturing and surfacing. During this timeframe we usually also put the characters into a pose and do some sample stills for the client and internal review. My favorite aspect is probably texturing and shading everything close to the final render, which makes me happy.
3DTotal: Can you tell us a little about the differences between texturing and surfacing? Alessandro: They’re strictly related... it`s probably just a matter of naming conventions. Texturing is the process which consists of preparing a UV layout for each mesh (UV editing) and preparing the various textures (Diffuse, Specular, Bump, Displacement) in 2D applications like Photoshop or extracting particular maps from 3D applications like ZBrush.
Alessandro: Shading (or surfacing) is the process with which we basically build up the material with those textures and control many numeric parameters (Bump, Specular values etc.,) to render the proper surface on each mesh (metal, leather, stone, wood etc.).
3DTotal: Do you ever get the chance to design any of your characters or are you always provided with a character sheet to work from? Alessandro: The range of creativity we have as character modelers is very limited. The client or our internal department of concept art dictates the look of all the characters we create. We always have at least a 3/4 view of the character we have to do in terms of concept art and then it’s up to us to fill eventual gaps in the concept with details, but even in this case the extra detail is subject to review and approval. Sometime we just up the res of the game assets from the client.
3DTotal: What do you feel are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned during your time at Blur? Alessandro: The value of my time and the efficiency of preserving it, because it’s easy to put in a lot of love – especially at the beginning of a profession like this – completely killing yourself and losing that balance between real life and passion.
3DTotal: Which characters in either film or video games have impressed you the most and why? Alessandro: I still love the design of the characters in the Conan the Barbarian movie, the classic T800 terminator exoskeleton and Giger’s aliens in Alien.