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Making Of 'Barack Obama'

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Date Added: 27th October 2009
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Hi, my name is Toni and I am going to walk you through the process of making a digital portrait.
Making a digital portrait can be a very difficult task if not prepared well, so my first advice would be to get a lot of references for your project.

Since my project was related to a well known public person, finding good references was an easy task. Having said that, it was impossible to find images that could be useful for assembling good image plains and so I relied mostly on eyeballing techniques.

With all my personal projects I try to learn as much as I can, so I often change pipelines and workflows as well. Don't be afraid to try some new techniques and applications. Technology is growing every day, giving us the opportunity to work more efficiently.

In this project I switched between Maya, ZBrush, Silo, UV layout and Photoshop.

Base Mesh

The first thing I did was build a simple base mesh in Silo using smoothed cube primitives and extruding a few faces from the bottom to make neck volume and shoulders (Fig.01). 

Fig. 01

Then I imported the base mesh as an obj file into ZBrush and started sculpting. In this stage I was focused on the overall shape and volume of the model; I was not so concerned with likeness features.  My goal was to make good human bust sculpt and build new topology over that high res sculpt. That way I could have a more efficient edge flow for further sculpting (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

When it comes to remeshing your sculpt there are many good solutions. I could have used ZBrush Z-Spheres, or even Topogun, but I decided to do it in Silo which also had some nice tools for that task.

After laying down new topology I quickly realigned my base mesh with reference images by using the move brush in Silo. After half an hour of pushing and pulling I had a good base mesh with a decent percent of likeness that I knew I could further refine in ZBrush (Fig.03).

Fig. 03

In the sculpting process the mesh can be deformed behind the point where your polygons align with distortion free UVs, which is something that will need fixing. I often do the UV part before adding more details to the mesh and for this task I use the great application called UV layout. With this sculpt I didn't spend much time on UVs at this point because I knew I would be revisiting the problem after completing the model.

For a well-trained artist, the task of building a base mesh in such way can take between 1-2 hours. This mesh can then be used in lots of other projects because it will have good mesh structure and volume.

continued on next page >

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