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Making Of 'Aquaman'

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Date Added: 13th July 2010
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In order to composite the several renders I'd made in ZBrush with the different materials and for the five different angles, the first thing I did was a test compositing for one of the angles so that I could replicate this with all the others as soon as I was happy with the result.

I imported the renders in Photoshop, gathered them in groups respective to their material attributes (diffuse groups, specular groups, lights groups, etc) and saved masks selections for every part of the bust to use them later on separate materials. Then, I started the actual compositing work, blending the multiple layers in different modes and opacities.

Initially I thought of going for skin tones similar to the reference photos of the actual statuette, but after experimenting with interesting layer combinations in Photoshop I decided to work on three different approaches for the color tones. The first was warm, with fleshy tones, sticking more closely to the color choices of the reference, the second was blueish, to serve as a pale/cool-tone approach with an eerie look and the third was a greenish-blueish combination, perhaps a bit more iridescent flavor, as an alternative between the other two.

Using the Lens Blur tool in Photoshop, with the depth pass as a layer mask on the flatten composition, I tried to give a feeling of Depth of Field in my renders, while with Lens Correction I also added some Chromatic Aberration to try and simulate a photographic look (Fig.19 - 20).

Fig. 19

Fig. 20

For the background, again I mixed together some photographic reference with layers of colored strokes and other detailing in Photoshop and ended with a couple of images that somehow reminded me of a deep sea environment, presenting several blueish tones along with debris and plankton-like particles. These images were put together with a radial gradient vignette mask, to serve as the template for the background, before the final touches of color correction, saturation and levels tweaking took place (Fig.21 - 22).

Fig. 21

Fig. 22

3d Printing

The decision to go for a 3D print of the Aquaman bust was something I thought of a few days after I was done with the digital output. I wanted to make a color 3D print this time, since the other two 3D prints I'd had done of other models in the past hadn't contained any color information.

In the meantime, I was told by a friend that there was a 3D scanning and printing facility here in Athens that was able to produce color 3D printed models. So I got into contact with them and started making modifications on the bust to make it 3D printer friendly.

The geometry format specs for a color print were .wrl (vrml 2), so I had to export the bust in this format from within ZBrush. Concerning the geometry specs, all the parts needed to be waterproof (close meshes) - and they already were so. Very pointy parts, like the spikes, had to be rounded off a bit at the tips, so that they could be printing without breaking.

In the case of the spikes, in a different scenario I could have printed them separately from the main bust - so that it was safer for them to be printed without breaking - making sure that their lower ends fitted well into the holes in the skull. A lesson learnt for the future!

Regarding the colors of the model, there was an issue for the 3D print: the polypaint color information was too subtle for the printer to catch properly, so I had to enhance the colors somehow.

Firstly, I converted the polypaint to a bitmap texture, so that I could work with it in Photoshop.

After that, I baked the Displacement, Cavity, Ambient Occlusion and Normal maps from the bust model, so that I was able to use their information in Photoshop as well.

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