Tuesday, 21 October 2014

King of the Dead

Hey guys!

I thought I'd start afresh this year with the blog. Things might move around a bit, reorder themselves, go through several edits, and might look a bit haphazard for a short while.

So I hope you'll bear with the mess while the construction is going on.

~~King of the Dead~~

First team project of final year!

The brief was  to create, as a group of five in two weeks;
  • A character
  • A throne
  • A wall
  • A scene
that befits the title "King of the Dead".

To play bingo with the images in our heads reading that; Black, skulls, the Grim Reaper, Día de Muertos, sugar skulls, male gendered...
Its quite easy to relate these images to the brief - they were certainly my first thoughts, and in some respects they still are even reading the title now.

So, playing devil's advocate, we challenged to avoid the heavy prevalence of black and gothic themes, skulls for faces, Mexican culture or a definitively male gender. Not that these aren't fine representations of death; the tried and true would be guaranteed to meet the brief , but wouldn't it be a little more fun to explore riskier road less travelled?

We conveniently split ourselves into areas of interest, and opted to design The Throne.

I really wanted to design an object as a character, so this seemed like a great chance to do so.

Pencil work - I wanted the throne to be a natural feature of the background. Would it be an earthy chair, or chair-y earth?

Silhouette was of major importance in the composition of the scene. The throne needed to be organic and alive (or er.. once alive) whilst maintaining the eerie mystique of death.

Threes - the "S" shape was really standing out the most for me, so I tried to fill in the blanks a bit about what it would be like out of the darkness.

With a bit of input from the rest of the group, I produced this design. We liked the less restrictive "lounge" shape, but as more of a carving.  Human accessories were a no-go, so I swapped candles for mushrooms.
After I worked my way to this point in the concepting, I realised it had been a while since I referred to the work of the rest of the team. Not wise. So I thought it best to see our concept mock-up and assess the damage.

Not too bad! But there were two trees in place at this point, and mine was the least complimentary to the composition. Something had to be sorted out!

Twiglet - Composited into the scene as a whole, my throne seemed much closer to a yeast extract snack than a looming tree. 
With a needed paint-over, I thickened the central mass of the tree whilst trying to keep the extremities thin and straggly. A much more prominent and authoritative scale for the environment.

The final design 

Chunky! Now modelling. 

Nothing too out of the ordinary in my 3D pipeline. Just a nice blobby basemesh taken in Zbrush and retopologized with polydraw in Max. The tree is one element, and the seat another.

Totalling up at a pinch over a10k triangle count.
As for textures, I actually thought I'd give 3D Coat a try. I'd never attempted polypainting before, but it seemed sensible given the nature of the cryptic jigsaw pieces my non-tiling unwrap ended up being.

And it was awesome! I really enjoyed working in it. The viewport shaders are a lot to be desired, but the unlit previews are fine for getting those diffuse textures down.

Roughness and specular maps were just filter-to-fit versions of my diffuse. Normal maps were made from baking down the hi-poly model I had made earlier in Zbrush.

Imported into Unreal 4.

 Not bad! Now that's a throne. This one doesn't stand a chance of being mistaken for a twig.

Oh, and I also made a little ground clutter. Seems some birds didn't have much luck in our Death King's cove.

Over to Kat for the import into the scene....

We really didn't do too shabbily.

Overall the final outcome looks pretty representative of our collective vision. And it was loads of fun! I had a really great team to work with - people with lots of enthusiasm and ideas that I feel we all managed to have room to express equally. It made it far more exciting this way than if it was an independent assignment.

I suppose if I had to pick on something, I'd probably spend more time thinking about how my tree would catch the strong lighting - our atmospheric glows and shadows don't do too much to flatter a lot of our texture work. But it does really capture the mood, so its a minor sacrifice for a better overall image.

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