I have always wanted to do a Steampunk project, and the idea of an antique Steampunk-themed Iron Man-type suit seemed very appealing to me. Trying to not make the model too modern and high tech was the challenge, but it was fun to exchange modern technology for a more tin and leather approach. Since I had the composition of the overall image in my head from the start, I decided to model and texture only what would be seen, so I could focus most of my time on the lighting, composition and overall look of the image.
I also knew I wanted to create this image with low-key lighting as it gave the image great depth and made it dramatically interesting. A couple of references I gathered when I started this project can be seen here (Fig.01).
I started by using the generic male model of XSI to place the character in the desired pose that I wanted. After the pose was achieved, I tested with some quick spotlights to see what the character's silhouette would look like. After I found a pose and camera angle I was happy with, I deleted the legs, back, head and all other areas of the body that would not be visible in the render and started modeling on top of this posed stand-in body. I put a lot of effort into the arm first to get a general look that was detailed enough but that wasn't too heavy and cluttered with objects. I then moved on to the torso and head of the model and started adding more and more detail to the model as I moved along. I found it was quite useful to render out a frame now and then to see what modeling was still needed.
I don't find it necessary to model a character like this perfectly if the aim of the project is to only be a still image. In the end it was about making a pretty image after all, not an animation (Fig.02).Â I also generated some hair for his arm in XSI.
I have always had an appreciation of low key photography. It is a brilliant way of showing off details in the model that might sometimes get lost, and a low key image always has such a nice ambience to it. So I wanted to create this image in the low-key form. Because of this, lighting was mostly straightforward, although it was a challenge to get exactly the right amount of lighting and the correct placement of lights.
I used a couple of spotlights. One spotlight was used as a key light and the rest were placed to get the right amount of rim lighting on the edges of this character (Fig.03). It was important that he had a nice rim on the edges of his body as this lifted him off of the black background.
In the end I came up with a lighting setup that made my grayscale model look pretty interesting, so I moved on to work on the textures and materials of the model.