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Self Portrait 1k0 2k16 making of

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Date Added: 13th July 2016
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3D generalist, Nicolas Brunet, shares how he made his surreal self portrait using 3ds Max...


In this article, I'll come back on the processes I used to create my 2016 self portrait: meshes modeling, elements texturing, compositing and rendering.

Step 01: Origin

If you've seen any of my past projects then you may know that I come from Alsace, a French region next to Germany; it is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. You may already have noticed that there is some Alsatian architecture in Studio Ghibli films such as Kiki's Delivery Service and Howl's Moving Castle. Much of my artwork and scenery is inspired by the typical architecture from Alsace towns and this project is no exception!

Examples of typical Alsatian architecture from the towns of Eguisheim and Kaysersberg

Step 02: Modeling

Somehow, modeling was the easiest part of working on this image. I recycled the house models from the Christmas in Alsace project. They were made in 3ds Max and I made a few adjustments to some of the parts to get a better mesh definition such as the wall the character stands on.

The rest of the environment is made of fairly simple models, boxes, and splines for the storefront and windows, all based on real world references. The roof tiles and pavement were generated with RailClone. The props took a little more time, the camera is only a small detail of the whole image but as I?ll use it in a future animation project I spent a bit more time on it. It was almost entirely created using a Sub-D modeling workflow; I used this process for the Kawaii cat plush and camera bag.

The trousers and sweater are based on my actual clothes and were modeled in the same way as real world clothes by using splines patterns; then I ran a cloth simulation to dress my 3D clone. I ran a second simulation to pose the character and props; in the end I ran more cloth simulations to adjust fold positions in specific areas.

Spline patterns and cloth modifier

Poly modeling, for the zip on the bag I used a path deformer applied to a spline object

Step 03: Texturing

Substance Designer was one of the main pieces of software I used during the texturing process. I spent many hours working on the sweater, adjusting the normal bump and then creating diffuse from it with the help of useful nodes, such as cloth wear, to give the pieces a frayed, worn look to the edges, giving them a lighter tone.

To add a bit more realism to the mesh I imported homemade string and fur textures that I then scattered with splatter nodes; most of the job was handled by Substance?s built in generators, except these imported maps and a couple of self-made folds height maps,

I made the most out of using SD; a good example is the roof tiles of the project. After creating a base material I applied it to different objects, then all I had to do was to bake the new maps from the meshes (position, AO, etc.) and randomize the main parameters.

Switching between different diffuse textures while keeping the normal and roughness information (and all this in live) allowed me to test different combination for the Kawaii plush cat. iRay was a great help for visualizing what the final render would look like.

Substance Designer - Normal v. complete textures

Blended with a few masks, crystal nodes allow you to quickly create folds in specific areas

Substance Designer - iRay previews

Substance Designer - iRay previews

Substance Designer - iRay previews

Step 04: Rendering

This project was rendered on CPU with Mental Ray to compute all the passes, IBL, moon light, light emitting from windows, environment reflection and Z-depth for the environment. The character had a few more passes from photometric lights to simulate additional light bounces. I used an IBL + Final Gather setup.
Before launching the render process I took some time to play with the character colors and computed a few tests on some props.

Plush fur simulated with Mental Ray height shader

All elements of the artwork use Arch&Design shaders

*slightly* Tim Burton inspired clothes

Step 05: Compositing

The original light mood was set on a brighter time of the day and didn't look interesting enough, therefore I started to play with color correction and added fog, too much fog but I was on the good way. Once I got the main comp done I walked away from the project, for a couple of days to get back at it with a fresher mind. Drawing on top of an intermediate comp job helped me to notice what needed to be adjusted or what could be improved.

Character passes

Compositing evolution and environment render passes

Step 06: Conclusion

One of the aspects I enjoy when I worked on the composition of this artwork is you can watch it upside down or rotated 90° anticlockwise, altering the meaning of the image. It's up to the viewer.

Thanks for reading this making of, I hope it was useful and if you ever have questions about some process you'd like to dig a little more, don't hesitate to drop me a line. Below are 2 time lapse videos about the modeling of the camera used in the project.

These shoes are magical

These shoes are magical

Related links

Have a look at more of Nicolas?s work on his website
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Check out Making of Christmas in Alsace part one, part two and part three


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