3DTotal: First of all, it seems from your website that you have experience across a number of different fields. Do you find that having a broad repertoire of skills makes work easier or in fact imposes heavy demands in terms of keeping up to date with so many disciplines? Francois:Even if I have already touched other domains, like set modelling, for a couple of years I have more or less specialised in the creation of characters, from A to Z. This specialisation allowed me to acquire a good knowledge of anatomy and facial expressions. Artistically, I do indeed have fewer things to learn now than I did 10 years ago, but the huge difference between now and then is the level of software. At the time, there were fewer things to be learned, and Softimage, 3ds Max and Photoshop were my software of choice. They were enough.
Now, apart from the major software like Maya and Photoshop, which are much more complex and powerful – and have a major update each year – there are a multitude of small and very specialised software packages. Some of these are very useful, allowing for simpler or more complex work and also allowing the artist to save a considerable amount of time.
I’m working on films and ads that require high-end models and it is for that reason that I constantly have to keep up to date with new software releases. I have to continue to learn and explore the ones I know already, and also learn new workflows and techniques. All of this takes time. It was always like that, and it will stay like that for a good while yet.
It is for this reason that I do not want to scatter. The average level of quality in CG rises each year; I prefer
to work and focus mainly on what I do the best: character creation. It is a choice, a way to see things and to work.
3DTotal: How do you think Mudbox compares to ZBrush? Francois: Being a ZBrush user, I understand why you ask me this question. Back in 1999, ZBrush was the first software capable of sculpting real time models composed of several hundreds of thousands of polygons. During its release in 2004, version 2.0 was made famous by its use on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
At first, the purpose behind the creators of Mudbox was to develop software which wouldn’t have the defects of ZBrush.
Its main criticisms being centred on its complex interface at first sight, unusual for a 3D software, as well as on its display and workflow which was not really casual. Mudbox was thus developed by using a standard OpenGL display common to a lot of 3D software, and with the navigations and sculpting shortcuts of Maya.
Mudbox 2.0 was released recently, and I obviously took time to test it. You can now sculpt smoothly several tens of millions polygons in realtime (on condition that you run XP64 or Vista64); its brush toolset was significantly improved; you can now have advanced shaders, HDR lighting and shadows. A new paint engine was also added, but it’s still basic and this one quickly shows its limits.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this new release. On one hand, I’m very impressed by the poly count and speed increase and pleased by the new brush toolset, but on the other hand, I really miss a lot of painting tools, layered PSD support, 2D texture painting, advanced texture baking, and a couple of other tools such as topology selection, posing tools of a connection between Mudbox and Maya or 3ds Max.
Unlike ZBrush, Mudbox is aimed at high-end users and big production houses, as you need a recent and powerful graphic card to fully take advantage of all its possibilities, such as ambient occlusion, and to paint multiple 4K texture maps.
I hope that its evolution will go in the right direction and its technology will be partially integrated into Maya, 3ds Max, or future software. The ideal software for me would be software which would take the best of both, and which would allow me to model, sculpt, retopologise, texture, animate and render within the same application.
ZBrush is not only 3D sculpting software, but a mix between 2D, 2.5D and 3D. For example, I can create a brush directly from an image and transform this on a 3D mesh that I can sculpt, deform, and use this mesh as a 2D brush again. Its tools are very complete. I’m in love with the sculpting brushes, the projection and painting tools, and the ‘transpose’ tool that allows me to pose a character within minutes.
It serves me for a large number of reasons, whether it’s to create models for feature films, real time characters for a next-gen game, create an illustration, or retouch a bump map by showing it in relief.
I’m looking forward for the release of ZBrush 3.5, and I hope that Mudbox 2010 will be a major release with a lot of new tools, and not only bug fixes, but for now I’ll stay with ZBrush without hesitation for sculpting; it is still a major piece of my toolset, which includes Maya, Silo, Body Paint, and the very promising 3D Coat.