When the whole COVID debacle began, like many others, my work took a serious hard turn in another direction. I had always worked from home so that part wasn’t affected, but all of a sudden the work that I normally got came to a screeching halt.
Instead, different requests began to surface as a result of the lockdown. Photographers were unable to do their normal routine just like everyone else and suddenly there was a flux of requests for photo real illustration to take its place. Some were too large to take on so I had to turn them away. But ultimately I did take on a few only to find that it really was impossible to do the work with just photo real illustration alone. I have always needed some kind of reference to do the portraits I did, and even if I made the person up— I still struggled with recreating the same person in a different age. So no matter what, some kind of reference had to be created. It wasn’t enough to find photos of a similar person with the same lighting. No matter what, it always looked like a different person.
I initially started to learn Cinema 4D, as some peers had recommended it based on may prior knowledge win other apps. But then a very good friend of mine not only recommended Maya to me, but also had several screen share sessions and introduced me to how to begin in Maya.
So I took it upon myself to learn the daunting software I had always avoided but wanted to learn:...Within a few months I had to crash course not only Maya, but also had to get serious about ZBrush — which up to that point I only dabbled in— i.e. sculpt a sphere into something without realizing that you need to know the more technical basis of how to translate it into a usable pipeline asset.
It was very stressful applying the software to the work I was doing AS it was getting done, but alas, I learned what needed to be learned. I had always used Lightwave 3D over the years for specific animated projects in concept art, and had prior knowledge and experience with rigging, morphs, textures, etc. but never learned actual CGI realism. Most of the work prior to this was extremely painterly/illustration based. But what little I did know definitely helped speed up learning this new pipeline. In addition to that, it was immensely helpful to find tutorials from people such as Kris Costa, a VFX film pro who has put out extensive lessons on how to use such pipelines. I recommend his classes to anyone who desires or needs to follow a similar path. https://www.flyonthewall.studio
Once I was able to create photo realistic skin and hair through Zbrush/Maya/Xgen, I could now use the model as reference if I needed to photo real paint from scratch— or simply render the model itself and use my digital retouching experience to finalize the process. I am very excited about the doors this process has opened, as well as the connection to newer revolutionary softwares, such as Unreal Engine and Metahuman— which I have also began working with.
My first real digital human that I chose to do as a portfolio piece was a baby, since that is probably (IMO) the most difficult to make lifelike. I find that grown men are easiest to create, as you have more texture to work with, followed by women being a bit more difficult, and children being the hardest with babies being on the top of the list as most difficult.
From here, I am working my way down and am creating several characters form some of my own IP creation that I look forward to sharing here in the future.
I wasted no time in being a fanboy, and began doodling out characters from some of my favorite movie sci fi. Here I worked really hard to try and attain Ewan McGregor's Obi Wan. Never got around to finishing it, as I mostly studied and experimented between deadlines.
Below, some of the older clips from over the past years animating in Lightwave and After Effects (mostly concept and animatics material). It is so satisfying to be able to bring this experience into bigger softwares to see what can be done. There are so many possibilities...