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Page 24

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hen we first saw to read about how this fantastic short was achieved,
Agent 327: Operation and hope you will get inspired to create your own The publisher cannot accept responsibility for any unsolicited material lost or
damaged in the post. All text and layout is the copyright of Future Publishing Ltd.
Barbershop back in high-end CG piece with the exact same tools over on Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written
for the purpose of criticism and review. Although the magazine has endeavoured
May 2017, we were absolutely page 24. to ensure all information is correct at time of print, prices and availability may
floored by the quality of the Elsewhere, we’re discovering the secrets behind companies mentioned herein.

animated short. The models, incredible game cinematic prowess with Digic If you submit material to Future Publishing via post, email, social network or any
other means, you automatically grant Future Publishing an irrevocable,
perpetual, royalty-free licence to use the material across its entire portfolio, in
animation, rigging, environment, Pictures on page 44. We’re also learning the art of print, online and digital, and to deliver the material to existing and future clients,
including but not limited to international licensees for reproduction in
lighting, scene composition and Cinema 4D in our special tips guide, and how to international, licensed editions of Future Publishing products. Any material you
submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future
just about everything else master some of its newest features in Cinema 4D Publishing nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for the
loss or damage.
involved was undeniably already Hollywood quality. R19. Meanwhile, Maya 2018’s Bifrost Oceans also © 2017 Future Publishing Ltd
What was more impressive was that anybody at gets a look in, and we get to grips with Ubisoft-quality ISSN 1759-9636
home could technically achieve the same calibre – Substance Designer techniques from senior texture
there were no secret tools involved. No, it was all artist Jonathan Benaïnous. Enjoy the issue!
Blender, which is of course free for anyone to
download and start learning. We’re so excited for you Carrie Mok, Editor

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This issue’s artists…

Ian returns this issue with a fantastic Character creation tutor Safwen has We welcome Doru to the magazine
behind-the-scenes feature on Agent given us this incredible guide to making this issue, with his amazing tutorial on
327, the exciting animated short and a real-time cyborg for any game creating a steampunk-style diorama
proof of concept from Blender engine. Make sure you check it out on with Modo. Learn his workflow and try
Animation Studio. Read it on page 24. page 46. it yourself! It’s on page 54.
3DArtist username N/A 3DArtist username safweno 3DArtist username DoruB

Jonathan is a senior texture artist Bifröst expert Diego has kindly taken Product designer Hussain returns to
working at Ubisoft Quebec. His us through Maya’s new BOSS system discuss his techniques for creating
industry-standard techniques for for simulating oceans, from his advanced V-Ray materials and more
texturing ornate details with Substance amazing cmiVFX tutorial series. Give it polished renders using V-Ray Blend.
Designer is over on page 60. a go on page 70. Don’t miss it, it’s on page 74.
3DArtist username Jonathan Benaïnous 3DArtist username N/A 3DArtist username N/A

Voon Jiat has written this superb In this issue’s review, Orestis dives into Adam is a seasoned journalist, and this
tutorial on creating a lightning the world of the AMD Radeon Pro WX issue he visited Hungarian creatives
explosion in Houdini. He details how he 7100 in the Chillblast Fusion Ryzen Digic Pictures to discover what it takes
takes a VFX shot from start to finish Render. Read his analysis of the to render stunning game cinematics.
over on page 78. workstation and card on page 84. Read it on page 32.
3DArtist username voonjiat 3DArtist username N/A 3DArtist username N/A

What’s in the magaz

News, reviews
& features
12 The Gallery
A hand-picked collection of incredible
artwork to inspire you
24 Blender’s Secret Weapon
Ian Failes finds out how to achieve
Hollywood-quality Blender animation with
Agent 327: Operation Barbershop
32 Growth Spurt: The Rise of
Digic Pictures
Behind the scenes at one of the leading
studios creating some of the most
stunning cinematics in the world
38 29 Pro Tips For Cinema 4D
Master C4D with Maxon and other pro
artists, and learn top tips for the latest When the agent
version: Cinema 4D R19
enters the
44 Technique Focus:
Edison Lamps barbershop, we
Denis Voloskov discusses his techniques
for lighting and creating bokeh effects in
wanted to have this
Blender and Cycles mysterious, low-key
68 Technique Focus: lighting
Summer Reading
Francesco Siddi
Arthur Gatineau gives us his explanation
for bringing a brilliant concept image to life
on lighting Agent 327
Page 30
81 Technique Focus:
Light in the Attic 24
Igor Kulkov talks about how he achieved a
faster post-production process with the
help of Photoshop
82 Subscribe Today!
Save money and never miss an issue
84 Review: Chillblast Fusion Ryzen
Render VR Pro WX 7100
Orestis Bastounis takes this new build
through its paces
86 Review: iClone 7
With new PBR features abound, should
you buy the new version of Reallusion’s
animation tool?
87 Review: NukeX 11
Paul Champion tells us his verdict on Create a steampunk Create a lightning
performance enhancements and more diorama with Modo 54 78 explosion in Houdini
with Foundry’s update
98 Technique Focus:
Axis Viana
Creative studio Oxygen tells us how it
Save up to 20% Turn to
page 82
achieved amazing photorealism with its
arch vis render
Master advanced 29 Pro Tips For
V-Ray materials 74 38 Cinema 4D

The Pipeline
46 Step By Step: Render a
real-time character
Safwen Laabidi gives us this
in-depth guide to creating a
character for games
54 Step By Step: Create a
steampunk diorama with Modo
Doru Butz’s exciting tutorial looks at
creating awesome environments
Sometimes I without an initial concept
do miss the days
when it was just 60 Step By Step: Texture a
procedural ornate column
15 of us. Jonathan Benaïnous takes us
Basically, through an industry-standard
workflow for texturing
everyone was
the division by 70 Pipeline Techniques: Generate
themselves procedural oceans in
Maya 2018
Tamás Varga discusses the Diego Trazzi teaches us how to use
growth of Digic Pictures the Bifröst Ocean Simulation
Page 32 System to create procedural waves
74 Pipeline Techniques: Master
advanced V-Ray materials
32 Unwrap UVs and make shaders in
our next-level guide
78 Pipeline Techniques: Create a
lightning explosion in Houdini
Shape a pyro simulation and master
RBD simulations

The Hub
90 Community News
3D Artist wraps up the first
week-long event from ACCESS: VFX

92 Industry News
OATS Studios renders a new
ADAM short

Render A 94 Industry Insider

Real-Time Character Maxx Burman
The art director talks matte painting
and his career
Visit the 3D Artist online shop at 96 Readers’ gallery
Texture a procedural The very best images of the month
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I’m a fan of games

and it’s incredible how
League of Legends has
turned into this huge
Andy Brüning eSport nowadays. I never
Andy is 3D character artist who
liked TV sports much but
is as passionate about games as
he is about art
growing up and being
Software ZBrush, 3ds Max,
able to watch video
V-Ray, Ornatrix & Photoshop games on TV is amazing.
Work in progress…
I also visited Riot’s
building in LA. Amazing
place for sure, filled with
hundreds of talented
artists. So that’s my
inspiration and tribute.
Andy Brüning,
Katarina – League of Legends, 2017
Frankie was
sculpted in ZBrush
and will be
produced as a 3D
printed and pre-
painted collectable
figure with Level52
Studios. Original
concept by Jordi
Kieran McKay,
Frankie Pin-up, 2016

Kieran McKay
Kieran is a professional 3D
character artist/digital sculptor
working in the games/
animation industry
Software ZBrush, KeyShot
Work in progress…

The concept of YeongJin Jeon
the racer is a robotic YeongJin is a concept designer
ground sport in [the] and modeller specialising in
hard surface mechanic arts
future. I was inspired Software Maya, KeyShot,
by the Paralympic Photoshop
Work in progress…
athletes. It was a
great challenge for
me to build every
single part of it,
from the inside
to the exterior
YeongJin Jeon,
Racer Tracer, 2016
This image is part of my
project ‘everyday’. Every
morning, I take a bit of my
time to create a different
artwork. It can be [an] image
or animation. I created
Silence because of some
blurry fragments I could
remember from a dream
Patrick Vogel,
Silence, 2017

Patrick Vogel
Patrick left his old job to live his
dream as a 3D artist. He
founded his own tiny studio in
the winter of 2017
Software FStormRender
Work in progress…

I did this illustration as an
exercise. I wanted to add
more environment around
my character and work on
my storytelling. I was really
inspired by Blame! by
Tsutomu Nihei and used
atmospheres like in the
movie to build my
illustration. I really wanted to
create a character with more
innocence to mix this with
some mech parts to show
he is not human
Maxime Gainche,
Silicon Soul, 2017

Maxime Gainche
Maxime has a passion for
character creation and loves to
mix 3D and 2D for concept art
Software ZBrush, KeyShot,
Work in progress…

In depth

Victor Kam
Victor is a videogame artist of
over ten years. He also instructs
at his local film school
Software UE4, Maya,
The main inspiration
Substance Painter, ZBrush behind this image was
Work in progress…
the Dead Space series and
also the film Gravity. I
wanted to capture the
feeling of helplessness in
the event of a disaster
out in space
Victor Kam,
Facility BETA 9D, 2017
Bevel modelling was used
in Maya to generate the
hi-res assets along with a
few ZBrush parts. Having
a good source mesh is
essential for your bakes.

Building your
own smart materials
is invaluable in the
texturing process to
maintain consistency
from asset to asset.


Lighting channels are vital for artistic lighting because they enable you to selectively Along the way I colour grade using my iPad to generate different moods
link lights to objects. and ideas. Always explore past your first idea.

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WEAPONWith its Agent 327: Operation Barbershop trailer,
Ian Failes discovers how Blender reached new heights in
Hollywood-quality 3D, animation and collaboration

hose already in the open-source Blender primary author and the chairman of the Blender
community will be well aware of the tool’s Foundation and director of the Blender Institute,
powerful capabilities. But the software Ton Roosendaal, grew up with the comics. He
has not traditionally been associated with quality had his team pitch Lodewijk on bringing the
at a commercial level. Until now. characters into the animated world.
In the works for months, Agent 327: Operation “Ton had a lot of these old-school comic
Barbershop, a trailer released by the Blender books lying around at the office,” outlines Hjalti
Institute and a follow-up to its successful Cosmos Hjalmarsson, the director and lead animator on
Laundromat short, is aimed at showcasing what Agent 327: Operation Barbershop. “I asked if I
Blender can do, both in terms of quality and also could take a couple of days and skim through
as an animation studio. The project is intended them and see if I could find something
to become a feature film. interesting and could pitch something to [him].
The idea was definitely a proof of concept for a
WHAT IS AGENT 327: feature film, but it should not be this short film
OPERATION BARBERSHOP? that has just a beginning, middle and an end.
The trailer is based on Martin Lodewijk’s Dutch “We did a really short animation test as a tiny
comic series, Agent 327, hugely popular in the proof of concept,” adds Hjalmarsson. “It was
Netherlands for several decades. Blender’s only ten seconds long, but it was good enough

The project used
open-source software to
create a commercial-
level results


The collaboration particle rendering. Every time we try to push it

further and further.”
enabled feedback that Siddi says significant push
rendering and motion blu
p was made in hair
ur with Cycles, for
was often available for instance. Initial render timmes for frames dealing
with hair and motion blur were taking over 100
others to view hours per frame, but som me much-needed
optimisation made a dramatic improvement.
“You need to render quickly and accurately
that Martin gave us permission to use his IP and for the characters,” comm ments Siddi. That’s
expand upon it to do something bigger.” what every large studio – Pixar, Disney,
The trailer focuses on a fight scene in a DreamWorks or Sony – d does, but if you look
barbershop – using every kind of hairdressing at the smaller indie animation, it’s not
tool you can imagine as a prop – in which a really what they do. Theyy get around
barber is seemingly dispatched by the evil Boris, it in other ways because usually
who then takes on Agent 327. Then, something it’s too expensive and
much larger is revealed to be at stake. complicated. So trying
The inspiration for the barbershop fight came to figure out a solution with
from recent Bond and Bourne films, among Blender and do it with open-sourced
others. “I was trying to figure out what would be software, that was, for uss, a big achievement.”
a cool location to have a fight scene that we Members of the Blend der Cloud could see all
haven’t seen before,” says Hjalmarsson. “I just that work being done, an nd how it was reviewed,
happened to think of a barbershop or a hair on a weekly basis. “You w would be able to see
salon. There are a lot of crazy objects there that parts of the edit, you wou uld be able to see
you can really utilise in the fight scene. Ton liked work-in-progress renders, assets and so on, with
it enough that it snowballed from there.” a little write-up that would say what was going
To make the frenetic fight scene a reality, a on,” says Siddi. “That was a great way to keep
team of animators, production designers, art people on board and keep them informed [with]
directors, riggers and other creative contributors what we were doing.”
were assembled from around the world into the In particular, Siddi notees that the collaboration
Blender Animation Studio. enabled constructive feedback that was often
available for others to vieew, via online videos. It
COLLABORATION VIA SOFTWARE also meant that changes made to
What made that global collaboration possible character designs or scene animation
was a combination of Blender Cloud, an online could easily be followed along by
tool that enabled users to access data from the everyone involved.
project, and also Blender’s task management “I remember in the middle of the production
software, Attract, and its render manager, that we changed the hairrdo of Agent 327,” says
Flamenco. Importantly, the majority of the Siddi. “Just the shape of tthe haircut and the
production was also done inside Blender. eyebrows… The eyebrow ws are very important
“We do the edit with Blender, we do all the for our character. They convey a lot of
assets with Blender, then we assemble the final expression in animation. There were just a
scenes for rendering with Blender,” explains couple of tweaks but it w was massive.”
Francesco Siddi, the film’s production co-
ordinator. “Then, we render them using Cycles, ANIMATING AGENT
T 327
which is Blender’s renderer. We do the crowd To get the trailer production process s ,
simulation with Blender, and all the hair and Hjalmarsson began with a rough outline,


MAJOR 1966 2002

THE MAKING OF The first Agent 327 comic Ton Roosendaal, having

OPERATION is published in Pep magazine,

and focuses on the adventures of a
written an animation package
beginning in the mid-Nineties,

BARBERSHOP Dutch secret agent who fights for

‘righteousness and world peace’. It is
written by cartoonist Martin Lodewijk
starts the non-profit Blender
Foundation. It is aimed at promoting
the Blender software as a community-
Key dates in the evolution of and illustrated by Jan Kruis. Lodewijk based open-source project. Later this
the trailer, and of Blender itself, would soon take over as both writer year, after a successful crowdfunding
which continues to pioneer and artist, and the series would campaign raising 100,000 euros
open-source animation continue to run regularly over Blender is released under the
the next few decades. terms of a GNU General
Public License.

The team wanted
the lighting to help
support the story
being told

The original
comics would
often change in
style, giving the
team a stylistic


2006 2010 2014
In order to show off just Argentine animated The Blender Institute
what was possible in the feature Plumíferos, animated by launches and operates the
open-source software, the Blender Manos Digitales Animation Studio Blender Cloud platform, a
team got busy working on ‘Project and directed by Daniel DeFelippo and subscription-based cloud computing
Orange’ in 2005, which ultimately Gustavo Giannini, is the first film to be platform designed for hosting and
became Elephants Dream. The made in Blender. It follows the life of a synchronisation of any backed-up
nine-minute short would lead to the sparrow who feels ordinary and then animation project files. Subscribers to
development of the Blender Institute, accidentally changes the way he the Blender Cloud can also benefit
a permanent office for production looks. An English version of the film from access to project files and
of further films, games and was released in 2014 under the updates on films and games
visual effects projects title of Birds of Paradise. that are in the works.
inside Blender.


Hjalmarsson had the

idea of using a
barbershop for the fight
scene, because he had
never seen it done before

something he calls “a short version of a script for Hjalmarsson and Siddi filmed some video for others, of course, contributed to these aspects
one scene.” From there, he and others continued the fight choreography. “It’s just us two,” recalls of the characters.
to develop scenes and dialogue and produce Hjalmarsson. “I was smiling the entire time. One of the major challenges of this work was
storyboards. Hjalmarsson was also joined by We’re playing out beat by beat, and the entire translating the 2D comic designs into 3D,
Pixar alumnus, Colin Levy, as co-director. time I’m just smiling, almost like a sociopath.” especially for the face shapes of Agent 327.
Concept designs were created in open-source Central to the trailer is the barbershop fight, “The comic book artist really evolved his style
2D painting software Krita, with test models which would have very specific beats and a bit,” notes Hjalmarsson. “From one comic book
built inside Blender and textured with GIMP. actions. Since the characters’ movements were to another, he wouldn’t be completely
Blender’s 2D animation tool, Grease Pencil, was crucial here, the layout and blocking steps in consistent. Also, within the same comic book,
utilised for some boarding, and crude animation were ultimately combined. “I was sometimes he freestyled it. It didn’t even feel like
videomatics were also filmed of the production doing the layout, but I was actually taking the it was exactly the same style, but yet it was still
team using smartphones as a way of working characters and making way better poses than is identifiable as the character. It gave us a lot to
out action beats. expected from layout,” says Hjalmarsson. think about when it came to visualising in 3D.”
While asset creation was still being worked Facial model sheets were devised to deal with
on, the team also launched into a number of HEADS UP the fact that 2D renderings of Agent 327 had his
tests in animation. Hjalmarsson started on that The modelling, rigging and texturing of the ear drawn to be pulled forward completely next
early, before the team was expanded. characters took place inside Blender. An older to the chin, something that wouldn’t work in 3D.
“For a while, I was doing a lot of different version of the Agent 327 asset already existed, “You might be able to do it for one pose and
experiments with the different styles that we although it was taken to a much higher level in one frame,” acknowledges Hjalmarsson, “but it
could go for. At the same time, Andy was terms of modelling by Andy Goralczyk (who was looks weird in 3D. When you need to move him,
developing the more three-dimensional, artistic also the production designer), with most of the you can’t constantly be cheating the ears, it
style of ‘What does the agent look like?’.” rigging carried out by Pablo Vazquez. Several looks like they are flailing about. So I started


2015 2016 2016
Cosmos Laundromat is Chairman of the Blender The Blender Foundation
debuted, telling the story of a Foundation and director of the releases Blender 2.78 with
sheep named Franck who wants a Blender Institute, Ton Roosendaal, several updates to the Cycles
more interesting life. It is an announces an animation test based rendering engine, viewport,
in-development film project from the on the Agent 327 comics that will be modelling, animation and rigging, and
Blender Foundation, started in 2010. completed as a trailer – Agent 327: UI. Further 2.78 updates in February
The project was aimed at continuing Operation Barbershop. It ultimately 2017 optimised rendering scenes with
development in Blender, promoting becomes a pitch for a feature film hair and motion blur (up to ten times
Blender Cloud and also for project. The piece will be directed faster than previously). Work on
investigating new business by Hjalti Hjalmarsson, who also Agent 327 helped facilitate
models for the Blender pitched the animation test many of the updates and
Foundation. to Roosendaal. improvements.

How the Agent 327 team crafted an intense moment from the barbershop fight

Plan the shot Grease Pencil, a

Blender tool originally developed for
screen annotations, is now used regularrly as a
02 Shooting videomatics At the
Blender office, animators filmed
themselves performing fight choreography.
way to complete 2D animations. On Aggent 327, This was edited together to serve as reference
that meant Grease Pencil came in handy for for how the final scene would be animated.
storyboarding and planning animation aand Observers to the production could see the
motion curve ng for this part of the scene come together as a mix of storyboards,
fight scene in rbershop. layout and videomatics.

The Agent 327: Operation
Barbershop trailer debuts on
YouTube, quickly racking up over
03 Animation pass In animating the
fight choreography, director Hjalti
Hjalmarsson was interested in using as many
04 Final render Rendering was carried
out in Blender’s Cycles rendering
engine, a physically plausible ray-tracing
two million views. The Blender
Institute plans to use the trailer to get different props available in the barbershop as renderer. The final look remained deliberately
attention for a feature film via pitches to possible. This included scissors, hairdryers, somewhat toon-like, in the vein of Disney or
Hollywood and crowd-sourced funding.
Blender Cloud subscribers have
razor blades, shaving cream, combs, brooms, DreamWorks Animation films, but significant
access to production files, assets, hairspray and many, many more. The animation development had been put into Cycles to
walkthroughs and demos process was constantly documented and optimise scenes that dealt with motion blur and
during the process of
making the short. animators were given video feedback. hair and cloth simulation.



A more in-depth look at some of the considerations behind the barbershop interior


The main window The original render Some of the
in the scene acted as the for the establishing shot figures in the picture
dominant light source, and was made more realistic with frames were 2D images taken
was used to provide warm a ‘dust and dirt paint-over’, directly from the Agent 327
diffuse light. However, some of the introducing a lovely feel of wear comics, with the outline removed
lighting during the rest of the and tear into the barbershop by and taken through a shader. Other
sequence was cheated where including grunge on the walls, hair pictures included Creative
necessary, simply because of on the floor, floorboard Commons or public domain
the high number of scratches and dust on the pictures edited to fit into
reflective surfaces. top-facing surfaces. the style of the film.

taking the face of the main character and just Maintaining a Blender Animation Studio, to hold hands,” says
tried to figure out a character sheet. What Hjalmarsson. “Developers can be doing some
should he look like when he’s a little bit happy, consistent look between experiments and the version of Blender that we
what about if he’s really happy, what about if
he’s excited?
scenes was one of the used is the latest version they’re updating. That
means they’d get instant feedback from us and
“In order to make him look more like himself,” main challenges know when something’s working or not.”
adds Hjalmarsson, “different things needed to “And the thing is,” adds Hjalmarsson, “this
be cheated in different ways when he’s looking was a year of my life making these three
more towards the camera versus in a three- until we get to the end where it’s really a minutes. The joke was that when I visited my
quarters view of the character, say.” cliffhanger,” says Siddi. “The lighting had to family and friends in Iceland after making this
support that situation. When the agent enters thing, and I was asking them, ‘Have you guys
A CINEMATIC FEEL the barbershop, we wanted to have this seen it?’ They’re like, ‘No. Sorry, man. I just saw
Siddi believes leaps and bounds were also made mysterious, low-key lighting, then still show all the trailer. I haven’t actually seen the entire film,’
in Operation Barbershop in terms of its the things that are happening. Then, there is this and I’m like, ‘No. That was the film!’.”
cinematography – both the camera movement action scene that could not happen in the dark.” Siddi says that only goes to show how much
and lighting. “Most of the look is due to the effort is required to bring such vivid images to
discussion between Andy, Hjalti and Colin,” he PUSHING BLENDER FURTHER life, and believes they achieved their goal of
says. “There were a lot of discussions about the Agent 327: Operation Barbershop was aimed at doing so within Blender.
mood of the movie, the photography of the pushing Blender Animation Studio further into “We did this as a small, independent
movie and how that should look.” the realms of a fully-fledged studio. Still, the animation film production, which is made
Maintaining a consistent look between scenes filmmakers recognise that Blender was just the possible by open source and free software.
was one of the main challenges, as well as using tool used for production, and the artistry rested That’s both on the production level using
the lighting to help convey the storytelling. in the many collaborators on the project. Blender, but also on the pipeline level with the
“The storytelling is really all about a “I felt like this was such a great way for the cloud tools we made. For us, it was really an
progressive reveal of bigger and bigger things Blender Institute, the Foundation and the important step, an important moment.”


After 15 years of producing the biggest game trailers and cinematics,
Digic Pictures reveals how it became one of the leaders in the industry

e’re somewhat surprised to find small pond practically covered with lily pads is so, and that this gave the studio a personal vibe.
ourselves in a paradise. Overlook the Digic Pictures, and while there was a time that “Sometimes I do miss the days when it was just
overbearing logos of some of the the 3D studio would have looked out of place in 15 of us. Basically, everyone was the division by
biggest names in the tech industry, and you’d be such an environment, these days it’s easily as themselves: ‘I am the modeller, you’re the set-up
forgiven for not believing that Graphisoft Park is significant as its neighbours. guy, you’re the animator’, and so on.”
a perfectly tuned oasis nestled only a short bus The company was set up in 2002 by founder The first project was a series of CG clips that
ride from the city life of Budapest’s downtown. and current CEO Alex S Rabb, initially would be used in-game for a medieval strategy
The purpose-built technological centre of the comprising just a small team of passionate game created by a Hungarian developer, of
Hungarian capital is a considerable shift from tall Hungarian artists keen on making strides in the which the early founders of Digic had an
stuccoed buildings and ornate bridges, and its 3D movie space. Its heritage was in videogames, association with. It was the intro cinematic that
serenity amid lush green grass, intricate statues however, and so it made sense that it began would stand out the most, however: a strong
and the sound of trickling water certainly gives there. “I joined in 2004,” says Tamás Varga, the Lord Of The Rings tone that matched the
the location an eerie dissonance of the city it’s a lead of the character division at Digic Pictures, particular beats of The Two Towers’ Battle of
part of. Many such technological centres claim which makes him a solid candidate to explain the Helm’s Deep: ferocity, glory, despair. While the
to be the ‘European Silicon Valley’, but with company’s rise to the top. “I was one of the inspiration was hard to ignore – The Two Towers
names like Microsoft, Canon and SAP claiming a modellers.” Varga explains that the company was released in 2002, after all – it was
portion of the cultivated land here with their had three modellers from a total team of 15 or nonetheless an impressive movie, so much so, in
gleaming glass buildings, Graphisoft Park fact, that it even went on to be screened during
certainly has a strong stake for the title. Hidden Siggraph’s 2003 Electronic Theatre – the first
away at the end of a footpath that bypasses a ever Hungarian project to receive this honour.

Digic’s mocap
studio is on hand
to help with any
recordings, but is
also hired out to
others in the area

Games Workshop became involved after that, number of more projects coming in. It wasn’t
where the growing team produced the initial until around 2009 where Digic Pictures really
teaser and the opening intro, and once more its began to make a name for itself, however,
production gained global acknowledgment at producing its first real trailer for a product rather
Siggraph. “The game was an over-the-top than an in-game cinematic. This was for
strategy, so the characters were very small,” Darksiders, an explosive cinematic that featured
recalls Varga. “It’s based on a tabletop game a range of mythically based creatures, scaling
where you have these small figures that have tension and an important focus on the detail of
everything completely unrealistically the main character. It showed what Digic could
exaggerated. What happened was that Games do, and ultimately led to much more of this sort
Workshop – it wasn’t even the publisher or the We did our own of work – and more staff members to help deal
developer of the game – sent us dozens of boxes with the work load.
of these little toys and lots of albums, and a huge story, our own concept “When I started, for two or three years after I
pile of books and images, and they said, ‘Do
something good’. So we did our own story, our
work; it was absolute, was the only lighting artist,” says Balázs
Horváth, who is now the lead of the lighting and
own concept work; it was absolute, complete, complete, creative compositing unit, “After that, the company
creative freedom. I do hear that a lot of people started to grow, and we started hiring artists.
still think that that is our best work so far.” freedom The lighting and compositing team now has 15
It must have made an impression, because Tamás Varga, members, but we have to work on eight projects
things grew from there, with a considerable Character division lead at the same time, so it’s very difficult to manage


How has the growth of Digic changed Digic is as at home
with the
for its employees? fantastical as it is
more realistic
creations in its
TAMÁS VARGA portfolio
“I have accepted long ago
that things have changed, and will be
changing. It is completely clear to me that if
we want to move beyond the kind of
projects that we can do as a small team then
we have to expand. If we want to do
something more than a one-minute trailer
with five characters, if we want to do
something like an animated feature, we have
to grow for that. Things will have to change
as the company grows, and so I have
accepted it. As I said, sometimes I miss the
old days, sometimes I don’t.”

“When I came here there
was about 40 people, so the company was
mostly started by these guys. I really like that
scale, because in that scale you can know
everybody. I think that it’s a really good size
for a company and since then, as it grows, all
of these guys became higher roles in their
departments, which means that in our
department – the animation department –
there is, again, about 30 people. So it is the
Its scale is also just
same size in the animation department as as adaptive, and
when I started. Again, I can feel that it is a capable of handling
both personal pieces
good number, because we can know each and large-
other and we can have friendships with all of scale scenes
the guys in the animation department, and
still have those friendships around in the
other departments. I think growing together
in a company like this it really makes you
connected to other departments.” the project.” As you might expect, many of the stepped in, producing trailers for some of the
division leads have been at the company for biggest game franchises around: Assassin’s
BALÁZS HORVÁTH quite some time. The lead of the animation Creed, Halo, The Witcher and Final Fantasy, to
“I have only ever worked division, Gábor Lendvai, started at Digic roughly name just a few.
in one company before Digic, so I don’t six years ago, where there were ‘only’ 40 people As Digic has grown into the 270-person
have too much of an idea of how it is to at the company. “Now there are about 270 studio it is today, it has produced some of the
work somewhere else, but what I like people,” he says. “You can talk and make friends games industry’s most appreciated and
about here at Digic is that inside the with all of the guys in the company,” he adds. well-known trailers. Many of them have won
lighting team I have quite a lot of good Growth was a natural part of the company, significant awards, have been seen the world
friends, so the mood of the team is quite but as it became able to tackle more complex, over by devoted fans, and a good number have
good, and sometimes we go on holiday demanding and significant projects, Digic had to taken spots on’s Top 100
together for a few days. The working evolve with the changing dynamic of the Greatest Trailers of All Time list – with its
environment [here is] perfect, maybe the industry. With the cost of developing games Venetian carnival-themed Assassin’s Creed II
projects could be less, but as I said, the booming exponentially – not to mention the announcement trailer at number three.
creative freedom of what we can do or what carefully planned marketing campaigns to run “We have – especially when you look at how it
we are responsible for is quite positive alongside them – it has come to such a point started with 15 people in basically one room –
for me.” that few developers are willing, interested or become one of the better-known studios,
even able to produce their own trailers, in-game
cinematics and in some cases even all of its own
cut-scenes in-house. That’s where Digic has

Over the years it’s
worked with some of
the biggest names in
the games industry,
from EA, Microsoft
and Ubisoft

Digic has been

working on Assassin’s
Creed for years, and its
work evolves with the
changing eras of the
historic game series

particularly within the games space,” says country is not so big, it was getting harder and
Varga. “So if someone wants to work for one of harder to find people within the country.”
these big franchises, not on the actual game, but The growth of the company has expanded
these trailers, cutscenes or short films, then further too, with its photoscan and motion-
Digic is one of the places you go to.” capture studios now integral parts of the
The advantages of Digic should be clear to company’s capabilities in response to the
anyone looking to make a name in the 3D art demands of the 3D production industry, though
scene. Not only will they get access to the the two operate separately as Digic Services.
biggest and best franchises in the industry, “The photoscan facility,” Varga adds as an
they’ll make a home for themselves in one of example, “Regularly make visits to Korda Studio,
Europe’s more exciting metropolitan locales. Inside the which is a big movie studio [in Budapest]. They
While its central European location makes have actually worked on stuff like Blade Runner
Budapest a tantalising spot for any would-be lighting team I’ve quite 2049 and the National Geographic Mars series.
newcomers, the lower production costs are an
obvious boon; a reason the city is home to so
a lot of good friends, so They were scanning a lot of the items here at the
facility, so they are actually now part of these big
many film production studios, too. But it was the mood of the team productions.” These are all part of its tools, and a
only recently that the company started looking clear sign of the kind of growth that Digic has
outside Hungary’s borders for talent. is quite good made over the last 15 years.
“We were basically running out of people in Balázs Horváth, But there is one drawback to Digic’s success.
the work market in Hungary,” says Varga, “the Lighting and composition unit lead As reputed as its work may be, only those that


Many of its staff praise Digic’s

work environment, where it
feels as much like playing with
friends than working

Digic even helped

Microsoft with the
production of key
cinematics for
Halo 4

pay close attention will ever know of their input. happens in every project – that there are
These trailers and cinematics are often pieces changes that make a bigger difference than what
of marketing from developers who are equally could be solved by the mocap in that part of the
known for their digital artistic merit, and in capture or the movie.”
many cases they’re not keen on advertising And then there are those rare times that
that such work has been outsourced. It’s a Digic’s work actually has an impact on the final
challenge that Digic must face, because released game, even if there’s rarely ever any
though it wins awards for its creations, it is credit when this happens.
often in the shadow of the franchises that it “This is something that has been going
works with. through a slow but certain evolution through the
“There are restrictions, and sometimes There are changes last decade or so,” explains Varga. “Back at the
they get frustrating,” admits Varga, “But start, it was basically, ‘Here’s the concept art’,
sometimes they get funny. That’s the nature that make a bigger and we start developing our own version, and of
of this work.” But for Lendvai, it’s as much
about finding creative control within those
difference than what course we had to get feedback from the client to
make different changes. Now, the only time we
restraints. “It’s always different from project to could be solved by really have to do concept work on a lot of these
project, from client to client,” he explains. projects is when we have to do something that’s
“Sometimes the client has strict ideas already motion capture not in the game. One of the reasons to do CG in
and drives the project that way, but for us Gabor Lendvai, either a trailer or cut-scenes is because you
animators the freedom could be – and it Animation division lead don’t have the ability to do that, you don’t have

Digic Pictures gives us a lowdown of
the software and plugins used in-house

It might not surprise you
to learn that everything the modellers create
Darksiders gave ends up in Maya, but admittedly the artists
Digic an do have complete freedom to create in
opportunity to
prove itself as a whatever software they want, and with
creator of trailers whichever plugins they desire. “We have a
very long history with ZBrush as well,” says
Tamás Varga, “And so they do have to use
ZBrush, because that’s where we have a
pipeline.” There is a mix of additional tools,
however. The likes of Headus UV and
Unfold3D are the two key choices for
artists, while it’s Body Paint for 3D texture
painting with some Mari use for the
higher-definition models.

Again, the animation
department also requires everything to end
up in Maya to help with the pipeline flow and
in fact most of the company’s tools as a
whole is built to work with Maya. Gábor
Lendvai doesn’t believe there’s anything that
Digic uses for animation that isn’t standard
across the industry. When it comes to
Digic’s trailer for plugins, however, many of these are created
Assassin’s Creed II in-house by programmers. “Most of the
is one of the more
known projects in plugins that we found useable since I’ve
the portfolio been here were our own,” say Lendvai, “so
there are no outside plugins that we force
our animators to use, most of our animators
have used [them already] for years before
they came.” He does add that those that
time to do that or it just takes place in another location. There’s even a dream to move into aren’t created by Digic are mostly basic
time or another setting and that’s why they don’t postproduction, perhaps working alongside the additions that most animators will be using,
have everything for it. Although sometimes they likes of Budapest’s booming film industry. such as Tween Machine or Studio Library.
are not yet ready with the game asset, if the “Digic has a plan in the future to not only
trailer is very early. But it does happen that we be working on the game cinematics, but to LIGHTING
send back assets for the client to use.” be involved in VFX,” Horváth tells us, “but it “We are using three different
There’s a clear sense from the ever-expanding would be an interesting or a good experience for programs,” says Balázs Horváth. The
studio that this isn’t such a problem, however. It us to use our knowledge in VFX shots. I would primary one is Maya, where the lighting
pays the bills, after all, and while the location, like that challenge.” With such ambition guiding process is developed. When it comes to
facilities and opportunities will continue to grow, it, this is a company that isn’t likely to be rendering, Digic equips Maya with Arnold.
it’s all a part of Digic’s real goal. restrained by the bounds of a single industry. “Well, actually we are using an in-house
“There is still a desire to have our own thing While it’ll very much relish in its central developed version of Arnold,” adds Horváth,
made,” says Varga, “Something of our own, European location for the length of its existence, “So we are not using base Arnold shaders.”
possibly even something as big as a computer Digic Pictures won’t forever remain a name that Digic has its own dev team for creating
animated feature. Building up the technology, only those in the industry recognise, of that you plugins and adapting tools to fit specific
building up the team, gathering the experience.” can be sure. requirements. Lastly, there’s compositing
The more that Digic grows, the more likely it is software Nuke, which includes a DOF
that it will one day take charge of its destiny and add-on to improve the base Nuke option.
not rely on the licences of other companies, and
maybe even outgrow Hungary’s Silicon Valley


Orange Towers
by Calder Moore

Experts reveal their Cinema 4D R19

techniques and creating incredible models,
motion graphics, animations and more

inema 4D is known for its stability and splinters and shards, add detail to cracks and
fast workflow, and the good news is much more. Edna’s tips and walkthrough will
that the newest release certainly won’t whet your appetite for exploring what’s new
let you down in those departments. In with this incredibly powerful tool. CONTRIBUTORS
addition to the solid performance we’ve come Other exciting improvements include the
to expect, there’s a raft of exciting new upgrades to Viewport, which now performs
features that will push the boundaries of what render-quality results in real-time; Levels of 3D artist
has been achievable with this software so far. Detail (LOD), which gets you faster
Over the following pages, Edna Kruger from framerates by using low-res versions of EDNA KRUGER
MAXON takes you through the best of new objects when the camera is far away; and the Learning content developer, MAXON
features in Cinema 4D R19, and is joined by new Spherical Camera, which will render
other artists who offer up their tips and tricks 360-degree VR videos. C
Surface artist, Atomic Cartoons
for using core elements of the software. Whether you’re new to Cinema 4D or a
Covered in detail is Voronoi Fracture – seasoned pro, our artists will have something
enabling you to create interesting organic interesting to teach you about the newest Director and founder, Cinema 4D Tutorial
structures, glue fragments together, create release as well as the core features.
Calder Moore
Cinema 4D has some of the best
selection tools in any software. By using the U
The Hair feature can be used in some
very powerful ways. Besides using it to create
hotkey, you have all your quick selection actual hair for your character, you can also


Try rendering scenes using the Octane plugin.
options. The ability to easily select a loop of
faces or quickly select an island has made
modelling way more efficient.
convert the hair to splines and create geometry
by using the Sweep feature, or use the Mograph
Cloner to instance geometry onto the spline.
Having a GPU renderer enables very fast
iterations so you aren’t slowed down by making
small adjustments and waiting to see the
change. Using Cinema 4D’s lighting and
Cinema 4D’s nondestructive
workflow is perfectly suited to modelling. Its
Rodrigo Saavedra
cameras, it’s nicely integrated into the software Boolean feature has the ability to stay live for as
and makes it easy to learn how to create long as you need. Being able to make
high-quality images. adjustments while the Boolean is enabled takes
out all the guesswork. 07 USE TEXTURES FOR


When working in your scene and
rendering, you can save a lot of time by 05 MOGRAPH CLONER
The Cloner feature in Cinema 4D is a
Sometimes you see a bit of flicker in your
animations produced by the shaders. Generally
it is best to use shaders to generate images
frequently cleaning your scene, naming objects, very powerful command. Instead of you having without movement, and textures for
deleting unused objects, caching anything that to place every instance of an object, the Cloner animations. Try to use textures in PNG format,
can be cached. When rendering, default will do it for you. Adding effectors like Random, so that your render has a good resolution.
settings usually aren’t optimised for your scene, Step or even creating your own rules using
so adjust and remove unnecessary features to
drastically reduce render times.
Coffee or Python can enable you to populate an
entire city. 08 PARTICLES FROM HAIR
You can use the hair material with a
render tag on the object to generate particles;
this trick will enable you to have more particles
Alien Landscape by
Calder Moore and a faster render. This can be applied to
particle generators like thinkingParticles.

For perfect shadows, first use a light
that has activated the shadow type, then use
shadow maps in the light object/shadow tab.
With resolutions beyond 1000 x 1000, this will
reduce the flicker when you have animations or
very large images in your render.

Michael Balchaitis


Edge flow is very important in
modelling. One helpful tip is to use your
Directional tool and double-click on an edge to
select a continuous flow of edges. A continuous
edge will move through a four-edge vertex to
the opposite side. An edge will terminate at a
pole with three edges or a pole with five or
more edges.


The Slide tool is very useful for speeding
up your workflow. The Slide tool can bevel,
extrude and extrude inner in one tool. You can
use Ctrl/Cmd and the Slide tool on multiple
edges to clone edges. This is very useful for
beveling details around border edges.


It’s very tempting to use splines and an
extrude object to create geometry. When you
are first starting out modelling, you might have


White Beach
by Calder Moore

a background using the Adobe Pen tool. from mask’. You can quickly sketch out ideas Space Local Reflections. You can turn on these
However, it is very difficult to deform or add in that would normally take you much longer in options, as well as the new Supersampling, by
more complex features. Some good advice is to modelling or traditional sculpting methods. going to the Render Settings for the Hardware
learn how to build geometry from a cube. You OpenGL renderer.
can build anything with a cube that you can with
Edna Kruger
a spline, but with the benefit of using deformers.
You can now take AMD ProRender out

When sculpting in fine details around
tight areas such as fingers or toes, use the CINEMA 4D R19 TIPS
for a test spin with physically based rendering
(PBR)! Do this by setting your project’s
renderer to ProRender in the Render Settings
Polygon selection. This lets you hide some areas MASTER R19’S NEW FEATURES and then simply click the ProRender button in
so that you can view other areas that would be any viewport to start a preview. You can then
otherwise difficult to see.
tweak materials and lighting and see a
constantly improving preview of your final


Another tip for sculpting is to use
masking for sketching. Go to Tools in your
Long test renders are almost a thing of the past
now with viewport upgrades. Turn on two new
enhanced OpenGL options to see some
render. Create a new PBR Material (Cmd/
Ctrl+Shift+N) and set up its Reflectance
channel, then add a PBR Light to easily set up
sculpting layout. Then choose ‘Extract object immediate results: Depth of Field and Screen- diffuse lighting and reflections.

Spaceship Lander
by Michael
Edna Kruger teaches you how to create corrective shapes for skin based on
a video by Bret Bays on

01 Create a Pose Morph tag for the

elbow control PSD morphs can help
you get the correct skin shape for certain poses,
02 Pose the arm where you need
the corrective shape Rotate the
elbow control so that the arm is in a pose where
such as fixing creases or even adding muscle or you need a corrective shape. This is usually at a
fat definition. Starting off with a rigged point where joints are bending and creating
character, you first need to add a Pose Morph unattractive bulges or creases. It’s hard to fix
tag to any rig control. We’re going to use the this using only joint weighting, which is where
right elbow control here. these shapes can help out.

03 Add in a new pose Open the elbow

control’s Pose Morph tag. Now switch
over to Edit mode and then click on the Add
04 Switch to Correctional PSD
mode If you leave the Mixing in
Relative mode and then try to edit the skin’s
Pose button. By doing this, Cinema 4D will add points, it doesn’t work because it’s not taking
in a new pose that you will then be able to use the skin’s current deformation into account. All
for creating the corrective shape. It’s called you need to do is switch the Mixing mode to
Pose.0 by default, but you’ll probably want to Correctional PSD. The Post Deformers option
rename that when you start creating more of automatically turns on and PSD Settings show
Planet of the Apes
these poses. up below.
by Rodrigo Saavedra


Virtual reality can now be a true reality.
Use the new Spherical Camera controls in any
camera’s attributes to render 360-degree VR
videos and dome projections for YouTube VR,
Facebook, Oculus, or Vive. Go ahead and
immerse viewers fully into your 3D worlds!


Reducing polygons just got a lot easier
with the new Polygon Reduction generator
05 Sculpt the corrective shape Now
that the skin’s current deformation is
being considered, you can make use of any of
06 Rotate the elbow control Switch
back to Animate mode in the Pose
Morph tag, and then watch the corrective
object. Because the object’s reduction is the usual tools that you’d call upon for fixing the shape automatically fire as you rotate the
cached, you can quickly try out different values skin, like the Brush tool, for example. Here, we elbow control in and out of this pose. And no
for its Reduction Strength, or set the number of can now get to work smoothing out the crease Xpresso is required for this to work, since this is
Triangles, Vertices or Edges. And the object’s and maybe add in a bit of a bicep bulge for a controlled with the Auto Weighting option on
UVs, vertex maps and selection sets are flexed pose. And that’s pretty much all that you the new PSD tab in the Pose Morph tag. It is so
preserved, which helps to provide a bit of extra have to do here! easy to do.
stress reduction.



Whenever you need faster frame
rates, detailed objects that are far from the
camera can really slow things down. The new
LOD object can help. First, use Polygon
Reduction to create low-res versions of your
Edna Kruger looks at creating different types of destruction for Voronoi
Fracture based on a video by Donovan Keith on

object, then select them and choose the LOD

object. Now dial in each version at the right
camera distance: high detail for close-ups, low
detail for long shots.

Why not have a go at re-creating reality
using the new Scene Reconstruction feature?
All you have to do is take some footage,
camera-track it and then create a 3D model of it
using the Scene Reconstruction tab in the
Motion Tracker. You can use this reference
01 Set up a Voronoi Fracture to a
mesh Create a Voronoi Fracture object
from the MoGraph menu and make it the
02 Build connections In the Voronoi
Fracture object’s attributes, open the
new Connectors tab and click Create Fixed
geometry for your modelling, HUD effects, parent of a mesh – here we have a simple Connector. This creates a Connector object
collision geometry or even for a quick-and-dirty flattened cube. Add a Rigid Body Simulation tag under the Voronoi Fracture object, and
shadow-catching object. to the Voronoi Fracture object and create connections have been generated to join every
another floor object below as a Collider. Play single fragment together. Play back to see the

With the Weight tool, you can now Ctrl/
back to see the whole mesh breaking up into
random pieces at once upon impact.
mesh now break up in multiple stages, starting
from the point of impact.

right-click a mesh to easily select influences and

start painting. Or press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift to
access the dropper to quickly sample weights
on your mesh. And in the Weight Manager, you
can also select all your influences, then click
Mirror + To – to cleanly mirror the weights
across your character, even when the geometry
isn’t perfectly symmetrical.


Make your motion graphics come alive
with audio-reactive music visualisations using 03 Increase the force Connectors are
live and dynamic, so you can change 04 Change the type of connector
Because connectors are dynamic,
the improved Sound Effector. Simply choose physical properties and everything is another thing you can do is change the type of
Sound from the MoGraph Effector menu and recalculated automatically. In the Connector connector and everything is recalculated for
add it as an effector for any mograph object. object’s attributes, open the Object tab and you. Still on the Object tab in the Connector
Load an audio file and choose which change the Force and Torque to high values like object’s attributes, select Ball and Socket from
frequencies of the audio will drive the 10 (100,000 cm) so that the mesh is less likely the Type list. Play back and see the fragments
animation. Render it all out as MP4 with sound to break apart. Play back and see the fragments connected and staying together, but in a very
and you’re in business. now straining, but generally staying together in flexible way. By using this method, you can
one big piece. create fabric-like or elastic effects.


Utilise the new Noise Shape as the
Falloff tab of any MoGraph effector or deformer
to add randomness and more variety to your
effects. All of Cinema 4D’s Noise types are at
You can easily make vertical splinters and
Cluster as the Glue Type and set the Cluster
Amount value: as you increase the number, the
chunks will get smaller.
your disposal in order to create the noise field. shards by adjusting the Scale Cell size. In the
You can even animate the effector so that it
passes through the noise field to help create
some cool effects.
Voronoi Fracture object attributes, you can
open up the Object tab and then go down to
Scale Cells. To create splinters, you can simply
You can create all sorts of groovy
organic shapes using the new Thickness and
increase the Scale Y value. Try using a value of Invert attributes together with Offset


It’s now possible for you to easily add
objects as parents, children or siblings to
10 to create wood splinters for something like a
fence or door.
Fragments. In the Voronoi Fracture object
attributes, open the Object tab and increase the
Offset Fragments value to push them apart.
multiple objects at once with shortcuts. For
example, select multiple objects and then add
generators as parents for each with Alt/
Ever find that you want bigger chunks
of fragments? Now you just have to glue them
Then add some Thickness to make them as
chunky as you like. Now select Invert to inverse
the geometry, and you can see some really cool
Option-click, add deformers as children for each together! In the Voronoi Fracture object lattice-like structures emerge. Add a
with Shift-click, and add more deformers as attributes, open the new Geometry Glue tab Subdivision Surface object to enhance that
siblings with Cmd/Ctrl-click. and turn on Enable Geometry Glue. Then select organic quality.


Denis Voloskov
Denis is a freelancer with seven
Incredible 3D artists take us behind their artwork years of experience profiling interior
and object visualisations. He is also
LIGHTING My goal here was to look at materials from the Cycles a martial artist and musician
materials vault. Bokeh in Cycles usually needs many more samples, and Software Blender, Cycles,
now we have great denoising in Blender, which makes crisp bokeh, and Affinity Photo
sharpens details in focus. I really like the Blender glow effect, it’s a useful
feature in close-up renders or foggy weather exteriors and interiors. Edison Lamps, 2017

Expert advice from industry professionals, taking you from concept to completion
All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

Render a real-
time character
Learn how to create real-time hair, render a character with
Marmoset Toolbag and integrate it with any engine
ZBrush, 3ds Max, Substance
Painter, Substance Designer,

n this tutorial we’ll go through the process of making a other references, but keep in mind that we’re not going to
Marmoset Toolbag, Mari,
Photoshop real-time character that can be rendered in Marmoset or copy everything from the original, we have to add our own
integrated in any engine, from creating a base model in touch. Let’s export the pieces as an OBJ to 3ds Max for
Learn how to
• Block out
ZBrush to the final details in 3ds Max. You’ll also learn how cleaning and remove all triangles and ngons to make sure
• Retopologise to create real-time hair from scratch. Following the usual that when we do an edge loop, it goes all the way around so
• Model pipeline used in today’s game industry, you’ll be using that we can perform our edge control without any problems.
• Create real-time hair ZBrush, 3ds Max, Substance Painter, Substance Designer We’ll use editable poly for extruding, adding chamfers and
• Texture the whole model in and Marmoset Toolbag. thickness to the hard surface parts.
Substance Painter and The purpose of this tutorial is to give you an idea of how
Substance Designer 01
to create your own characters in a non-destructive way.
• Integrate with Marmoset
Toolbag for shading, lighting We’ll include some tips and tricks to make really cool-
and rendering looking hair and change its parameters procedurally. You’ll
Concept then have the means to create not just characters, but
The original concept is from anything because this workflow can be applied to assets,
one of my favourite concept
artists, Warren Louw. I picked
environments and so on.
it because I liked the design
and it’s got both organic and
hard surface details, which
would be a challenge for me
to translate that into 3D. You
01 Base mesh block out We’ll start things off with a
base mesh. We’re not making our own because
when you work in a studio it’s better to have a base to start
can check his awesome work
here: from than to have to make a new one each time you create a
warrenlouw. character. For this character we’ll use a base mesh to add
the main form and correct proportions without subdividing
the mesh. This is important – most beginners want to dive
into details as soon as they start sculpting without having a
good form and some decent anatomy. After we get the
correct silhouette, we’ll have to start adding subdivisions to
work on the neck piece using the ClayBuildup, Trim
Dynamic, Dam_Standard and Move brushes. We don’t have
to use that many brushes to be honest, these ones are all we
need to achieve the result that we want and for most cases,
we try not to go into a lot of details when it comes to hard
surface in ZBrush. Rather, we can do a clean retopology and
finish the rest of the modelling process in 3ds Max to give us
more control when adding panel loops and making the
model as clean as possible.

02 Retopology phase Now that we have a base to start

from, we’re not going to worry about it in 3ds Max
for the moment. Use ZSphere to do the retopology because

YOUR it’s easy to use, plus it’s controllable. You can use other

FREE software if you want but ZSphere is enough for what we’re
trying to achieve. Usually in hard surface, we will try not to
DOWNLOADS add triangles and ngons in curved surfaces because you
won’t get any pinches, especially because this character’s
• Importing_sbsar_file_
marmoset suit is highly reflective. After finishing the retopology, export
• Hair_cards the model to 3ds Max. In the next step we’ll see how we go
• Hiar_project_Marmoset_ about modelling the rest of the pieces.
• Procedual hair
• Hair maps
• Tutorial screenshots 03 Clean up the topology After creating the rough
sculpt, we’ll make a last check of the anatomy and
the overall look compared to the original concept and some



04 Poly modelling Now we have the clean topology to

work with, we can start looking at references for
ideas on how to treat areas such as the holes on the suit, the
panels on the spine, details on her neck piece and the
energy source in her chest. Refer to industrial design for
ideas and break down the details to different levels. Start big
and finish small. Try to change the shading of your geometry
to check for pinching in your model. You can use a very
shiny shader or just the standard 3ds Max material. We
advise you to use a blue colour with a high specular intensity
that will bring out any modelling artifact. To add thickness to
the pieces, since the back face won’t be visible, instead of
using the Shell modifier, click on all the borders and extrude
twice. That way we’ll have thickness without extra polygons
on the back.

05 Cable modelling The first thing to keep in mind

when modelling a sci-fi-looking cable is that you
have to think about using a modular workflow in games.
That means you model just a small part of the cable so that
when you duplicate it to make a longer version, you won’t
see the repetition, almost like texture tiling. Usually when
modelling cylindrical objects you start with a cylinder. Well
we’re not going to do that, so take a flat plane and gradually
add details to it, add a Bend modifier with an angle of 360 to
see how it looks and keep turning it on and off. After you
finish with the modelling, draw a shape that will be the path
of the cable and how it would look when connected to the
character. After that, duplicate the part to your desired
length and attach everything, add a Path Deformer modifier,
click on Pick Shape and choose the spline you made. Now
you have total control on the form of the cables.

06 Detail the suit Now add folds on the suit to make it

look like leather. Folds will give a natural feel even if
it’s a robot. Export the mesh to ZBrush and since it’s leather
wrapped around metal, it will not have that many folds, only
around the connection between the shoulder and biceps.
We’ll use the Dam_Standard brush with one simple stroke
and then use Opt/Alt to invert the brush effect and do
another stroke flowing. You can get references on Pinterest,
just type ‘folds study’ and you’ll find a bunch of examples
showing how clothes behave. Now we’ll focus on the parts
that connect with other objects like the spine, so it feels like
the leather is affected by those pieces, which is important
for realism. Use the same brush along with the Smooth
brush, but don’t oversmooth the mesh as we want the
details to be sharp for a better bake in the texturing phase.

Low poly vs high poly

When making a character for games or cinematic
purposes, before you start the modelling process you
have to think about the topology for both high and low
poly. This prevents you from doing it a second time as
all you have to do is model the low poly with good
topology and edge flow, and use the 3ds Max modifier
stack to work on each phase in a separate editable
poly that enables you to have control on the level of
detail in your models. Then, all you have to do is add
turbosmooth and you’ll get the high poly, or deactivate
the modifiers to get the low-poly character ready,
without redoing all the work.


Realism in textures
This PBR workflow made everything more simple but
it’s hard to be original because lots of new artists are
using the same downloaded materials. You can create
your own and even use your phone to scan some
material from real life and process those textures in
Substance Designer, for example, and use the final
output in Substance Painter to add some details. It’s
really awesome and you can do this in any software.
Just remember to be original so your work will stand
out from the rest.

07 Emphasise the mechanical parts When it comes to

creating the mechanical objects, you always have to
spend a bit of time thinking about what details you want in
the actual geometry and also what details you want to add
later using alphas. At this stage we’ll use the Masking tool
along with Inflate to make those details. All you have to do is
mask some panels and screw details. After you finish with
masking, go to the Deformation settings and scroll down
until you find Inflate Parameters. Once here, put in a value of
1 or 2. You can always use some custom alphas without
manually masking the details, it’s just that in our model we
don’t need to bother with that many details because it’s
already detailed enough. If you wanted to add more, you can
download or buy a mech brush and go crazy. However,
before you do this, you need to understand that the more
details you add the noisier your model will get, and that’s not
ideal visually.

08 Unwrap your model It’s time for laying out UVs.

When you get to the unwrapping stage, the most
important part is putting the seams in the right place. If you
don’t take care with this, you risk having visible seam lines in
your textures. But that’s not all – you also have to consider
pixel density. This simply means that the biggest object
needs the largest UV space. We’ll use the ZBrush plugin for
most of our UVs since it’s awesome and very easy to use;
it’s just a matter of clicking on Unwrap. What’s cool about
this is that when you unwrap the mesh, you click on the
Flatten button and you can use the Move brush to adjust the
form and smooth it all inside the UV space. When you are
finished, click on Unflatten to go back to your 3D view and
then use the same technique for all the parts, including the
head and the cables.
Now export everything to 3ds Max to adjust the pixel
density. All you have to do is add the UVunwrap modifier
and use the Move and Scale gizmo to fix the scaling and the
bad rotation of your UVs.

09 Prepare the character for texturing As soon as you

get to the stage where you have the UVs properly
laid out with no visible seams and a good pixel density, it’s
time to create the base colours of the model. When doing
this, follow the reference in addition to adding your own
personal touch. Because this model is not for games but
real-time and we’re creating it for a still images, it means
that we have a bit of freedom when it comes to texture
resolution. We’ll separate the model to five UDIMS, which
means that each of the five parts will have its own UV
space. The benefit of this is that it gives us a good pixel
density to work with.



The one thing that can make or break your character
is anatomy and silhouette. No matter how great your
texturing or your lighting is, if you don’t get your form
and proportions right your character will always look
odd. You can add details later, so it doesn’t matter
how long it takes. Study anatomy every day and even
when you improve, work harder still and carry out
your sculpting or modelling with the lowest
subdivision possible that still enables you to get the
main shapes. Detailing will come later.

10 Character texturing We’re ready to start texturing,

so will export everything to Substance Painter. Don’t
forget to rename everything and assign different materials
to each part. Now go to Substance Painter; all we have to do
at this stage is add some fill layers with a basic colour to get
a feel of the end result without details, and match the
references with some guesswork since we don’t have that
many viewpoints, only one. Try to avoid colour picking from
the actual references because you won’t get the correct
colour. Keep in mind the reference contains lighting
information along with reflection highlights and so on.

11 Texture detailing Before we start any detailing we’ll

check references from real life. That way you’ll learn a
lot about how different shades react to the surrounding
environment. If you go into detailing from your imagination,
you will always get a non-realistic result. Even though our
character is a bit stylised, we want some realism. Most
people will always use a generator without changing
anything – a generator is a way of smart masking your layers
using surface information from the map. These maps will tell
the generator where to put the damages on your model. It’s
easy to use but when you always apply it in the same way,
all your work will look the same, so let’s make our own
generator in Substance Designer. To create details you just
pick a lighter colour than the main colour, for example the
black part of the suit. Since it’s black we create a lighter
colour like a dark grey and put it under it. Then go to the top
layer (the black layer), add a white mask and add the
generator. In this case we’ll choose our generator and mask
the edges of the top layer using a costume grunge made in
Substance Designer, and that’s pretty much it. All of the
details, whether it’s dirt or oil or any damaged areas, we’ll
make using smart masking or hand paint any specific details
that we want to add.

12 Polypaint the face When it comes to the face, we’re

not going to do the same workflow as with the rest of
the models – we’ll split it into two parts. First we add the
main colour of the skin in ZBrush. Find some references to
understand the different tones of the face. After that we’ll
convert our paint into textures and then export it to
Substance Painter to add the make-up and skin details. We’ll
create a fill layer with a noise generator to add some skin
imperfections, another fill layer for the tattoos next to the
eyes and now we’ll use the ambient occlusion of our mesh
to add some redness. You can do that by adding a fill layer
with a red colour similar to the blood colour and use the AO
map as a mask. Don’t overuse it, just around 10 per cent
opacity is fine as we’re not going for a realistic texturing.


13 Prepare real-time hair Here you want more control

to twist and change the length of the hair cards
without stretching the geometry, so we’ll use 3ds Max to
create shapes with the awesome Polydraw tools in the
Freeform section. You’ll use strips instead of spline, that way
you can take the strips to ZBrush to adjust the haircut and
when exported back to Max, create splines from those strips
using a technique without any scripting. All you have to do is
select all the edges of those strips, then click on the borders
in editable poly, click Alt and deselect the borders. This way
you will have only rings, click Connect and it will add one
edge in the middle of each strip. Create a shape from the
selection and there you have it. Spline from strips after
you’re satisfied with the haircut form.

14 Create the hair strand Now we’ve got the main

shapes in place and are happy with the haircut, we’re
going to start modelling the hair strand. This is simple
polygon modelling and we start with a simple plane. Extrude
from the start of the planes to make the hair look curved,
then use FFD 3 to taper the end of it. We’ll make three
different hair strands with a different length, three small
ones and a long thin strand to make the hair look a bit messy
and less computer generated. Now that everything is in
place we’ll unwrap the cards – it won’t take a lot of time
since it’s only seven strands. Let’s make the haircut look
good. Select the strand and add the Pathdeformer modifier
of 3ds Max. This modifier makes the selected geometry
follow the path, in this case the spline created in Step 10. We
keep duplicating the hair and that way all strands can share
the same UV space. It will save a lot of time when it comes
to texturing. After we finish the hair we’ll export the
geometry only to ZBrush to work more on the haircut using
a simple Move brush, and maybe some more duplications of
the strand using the Transpose tool to fill the gaps.

15 Make the high poly hair The first thing we do before

starting the texture is take the six strands to ZBrush,
go to ZPlugin and open the UV Master. Since the strand
already has UVs, just click on Flatten and that way UV
Master will turn the UVs into geometry so we can paint hair
on top. Select the Curve Tube Snap brush and adjust the
settings of the tapering so that when we create the hair, it
will taper at the end. You can change the settings by going
to Stroke Curve modifier, activate the size and play with the
curve until you get the desired effect. Now start painting the
hair but keep in mind that after you paint the hair, choose
the Move Topological brush and keep moving the strand
randomly on the z axis. That way when you bake the zdepth
map or ambient occlusion map, you will get depth in the
texture and it won’t be flat when you finish. Delete
everything but the painted hair.

Lighting characters
When lighting a character you have to think about
where you want the viewer’s eyes to go. Try to tell a
story with lighting; don’t put random lights all over the
place. Sometimes you’ll make a great model with
great texturing but all of it will break down in the
lighting stage. Your character can look flat or too dark.
Study light theory in relation to colours and mood, and
this will greatly increase the quality of your work.


16 Texture the hair Now we have what we need to start creating our texture but before
we do that, we need a base to start from. That will be the baked maps such as alpha
and zdepth and so on. So the first two maps we have to bake is in ZBrush. It is easy to do the
zdepth map because it is created by going to the alpha of the brush and clicking on grabdoc.
It will automatically create a height map for you. To create the alpha map, you just have to
click on PBR render and you’ll get a clean alpha. After creating the two maps we’ll export the Safwen Laabidi
high-poly hairs and created a basic plane to use for baking the rest of the maps (normal, My name is Safwen Laabidi. I am currently
ambient occlusion, position map and so on) in Substance Designer. When we finish baking responsible for research and development at
we create a basic graph in Substance Designer. Now we have a procedural texture that can D-TeK Studio to help keep the studio up to date
be exported as a Substance file, which can be opened in Marmoset Toolbag, Unreal Engine, with today’s techniques. I also teach character
Unity and so on. The graph is simple enough for anybody to make; it controls factors such as creation for games part-time at NETinfo.
the hair colour, normal, intensity and roughness. The alpha map is blended with the depth
and the ambient occlusion map to fade the different strands of hair to look more realistic and
work better for antialising.

Aiden the Spirit Hunter, 2016

ZBrush, 3ds Max, Marvelous Designer, Substance
Painter, Substance Designer, Marmoset Toolbag
I made this character for the ArtStation challenge. I got
second place and learned a lot from it.


Queen of the Forest, 2017

ZBrush, 3ds Max, Substance Painter,
Marmoset Toolbag
This was created to practise my stylised skills. It’s not as
good as I wanted but I’ll get better at it with hard work.

17 Shade and light Now all we have to do is export the maps from Substance Painter and
plug each map in the proper slot, apart from the hair shading, which is a bit different
because we used Substance Designer. We’ll load the SBSAR file we made; click on the
material of Marmoset Toolbag, scroll down to Extra, pick Substance and load it. Now
everything is done. The lighting will be a bit tricky because none of the standard HDRI that
comes with Marmoset will give the result we want, so we have to look up some online until
we find one that provides good reflections. For the face, we want to guide the viewer’s eyes
directly to the face so we’ll put the brightest light on the right side using the Rembrandt
technique, only not so obvious. Just a small hint of the triangle on the left eye and we’ll mix
this technique with the warm vs cold workflow, but also not too much since it’s a sci-fi Najla, 2017
character. You’ll have to add more lights with different colour variations but at the same 3ds Max, Marvelous Designer, Substance Painter,
Substance Designer, Marmoset, Mari
time, keep them close to the warm and cold. The rendering part is the easiest part thanks to I did this work to learn how to clean very messy scan data
Marmoset Toolbag 3. You don’t have to do much, just activate all the settings with the and get a realistic result.
resolution that you need, activate the GI and hit Render.

52 All tutorial files can be downloaded from:


Create a
with Modo
Learn how to conjure up perfect
lighting and detailed textures to
generate an environment from
your imagination

hen working on games, concept art for
environments is a necessity, but in many cases
there isn’t the time to generate specific
concept art, so you have to create from imagination.
The way to approach work where you have complete
freedom over the work, or perhaps just a general idea to go
from, is very different from when you have to create
something from a concept that already exists. To help you
tackle such a scenario, we are going to look at an approach
for getting the most impact from your environment. We
will run through the whole process of creating a steampunk
diorama, from scratch, without relying on any specific
concept or guidelines.
We will also take a look at solving problems on the fly,
examining what works and what doesn’t and how to
recognise the difference between the two!



01 Block out This step is probably the most important

one. If the initial blocking out of areas is weak, the
whole piece will look weak, no matter how much detail, FX
or PBR textures you throw at it. This first attempt is a more
traditional gate. It was completed in Modo using just
cylinders and bevelled cubes. We start adding pipes and
gears, which has the immediate effect of giving it a
DORU BUTZ steampunk look, but it is hard to justify them from a
Bottles of Life, 2017 practical standpoint. All the bevelled and rounded corners
Software start to make the scene too mild. We want a more
Modo, Unreal Engine 4, menacing look. For the next pass, we focus more on the
Substance Designer and silhouette. We raise the sides of the gates and give them a
Substance Painter 02
more angular shape, which we contrast with a round taper
Learn how to at the bottom. We add some cables to break that vertical
• Develop a diorama from
your imagination
composition and also add some visual interest.
• Build strong silhouettes for
dramatic environments
• Iterate in order to get the
most impact out of your
02 Move to Unreal After each block-out step, we move
to Unreal Engine 4 in order to check how it looks
in-game. We add a few basic lights in order to have a
composition art
• Use blueprints to achieve general impression of the blockout – just a couple of point
faster results lights and a directional light. The shapes and silhouette tend
Concept to be more obvious with lights and basic ambient occlusion.
I’m a huge sci-fi fan, but I also
love the BioShock aesthetic, so
I wanted to create a diorama
based on that mood. 03 Composition iteration The piece is progressing, but
it feels like we are losing some of the steampunk
feel. The large gear in the middle adds a lot of visual interest

and the large pipes from the sides help cement the
steampunk look, but we need to make the large gear feel
useful. We’ll tackle this issue later, when we have a clearer
idea of what we want it to do.

04 Texture blockout After we are happy with the

general look of the piece, we can start working on
textures and decide on the materials for each part. We jump
into Substance Designer and make quick concrete and brick
textures, as well as a few types of metal.
We only used tileable textures, since it is faster and at this
stage texture detail, like edge wear and dirt, is not that
relevant. We focus mainly on material definition and scale.
Since Substance Designer enables the user to iterate really
fast, we can modify the materials to our liking. One of the
biggest issues we encountered with such a small night
scene was that all the reflective materials, and especially the
metals, had really dark reflections. There was a lot of
tweaking of metalness and gloss until we were satisfied.
One of the other things we should do is to increase the
intensity of the reflection probes.

05 Fix problems The gate was tricky because it looked

too noisy and flimsy. We decided to remove it and
replace it with a fully metallic one, with decorative elements
that reinforced the Victorian/steampunk aesthetic.
We also revisited the gears above the gate. Rather than it
just look decorative, we tried to give them some sort of
mechanical plausibility. We also pushed some asymmetry,
since the rest of the piece is mostly symmetrical.

FREE Since Substance Designer
enables the user to iterate really
• Tutorial screenshots
fast, we can modify the materials
to our liking

06 Texture polish We go back to Substance Designer

and start polishing the block-out textures. The
small props can be textured in Substance Painter, but we
don’t do any texture baking. We can bevel the important
edges and add normal details in Substance Painter.

07 Vertex painted materials Because tileable textures

are so easy to use, we should use them as much as
possible, but they have two big downsides: obvious
repetition and the inability to add local details, such as dirt or
puddles. We can create a custom material in UE4 in which
to use vertex painting as a mask for adding a few different
tileable textures together, which makes it possible to paint
some dirt and wet spots.

08 Add signage To make a more believable piece you

must think of a story for it. Why is it there? Who
are the people that would live/work there? One of the
easiest ways to convey that is through signage. Things like
graffiti and warning signs or other information of that type,
make the world look lived in. The ‘Gate 11’ sign was a decal
to add more personality to the piece, but it became
07 08
distracting and felt out of place, and as such was removed.
Don’t be afraid to test out things to see if they work.

09 Tweak lighting Even though we have some basic

lighting, it is time to start refining it. The spotlights
on the walls are too strong, and the combination of spotlight
and directional light on the cobble street is creating too
much noise. First, we should increase the tiling on the road
texture and that immediately improves the problem of
noise. We can reduce the intensity of the vertical spotlights
and add a custom skylight cubemap that is warmer and a bit
brighter, which helps the materials read better. It also
contrasts nicely with the blueish background.

10 Particle effects Atmosphere is extremely important

for environments. The easiest way to add it is
through fog and particle effects. The ones used here are
extremely simple; just basic steam from pipes and the sewer
grill. They are all simple particle emitters with a basic alpha.

We need to nail down scale as soon as possible, since
fixing it later will prove to be a pain. Try using a generic
human mesh when you make an environment. We
use it when we model in Modo as well as when we
take the scene to Unreal Engine.




11 Happy little accidents While trying to improve the

lighting on the cables, we accidentally moved one of
the point lights above the two sides. We liked the way it
looked, creating a nice long gradient on the sides and
making the silhouette read better. As Bob Ross would say, it
was a “happy little accident”.

12 Silhouette final touches While the piece is starting to

come together, we still have some issues to fix. The
biggest one is that the diorama ends in a very straight line
and the silhouette isn’t as good as it could be because of it.
We can add a few concrete structure pieces to give the
feeling of some sort of foundation.

13 Cable blueprints A smaller issue is the cables running

down the sides of the gate: they need more variation.
We can also add cables on the large concrete parts on each
side of the road, but to make them in Modo would be
tedious, as each modification would require new exports
and tweaking. So we make them in UE4 using blueprints.
The time saved and ease of use is substantial and we would
highly recommend anyone doing a scene with cables to try
making them via blueprints.
13 14

14 Lights blueprints Blueprints are extremely powerful

tools. For instance, we want to achieve a blinking light
effect and link it to the glow intensity of a few materials. This
is done using blueprints. The first step is to make a material
with a blink parameter. We then create a blueprint in order
to make the light blink. This is achieved by making a
timeline, then adding a float track to it that controls when
the point light is on or off. A parameter is created from the
light blink frequency to be used to determine the intensity of
the glow of the material.

15 Post-process and finalise the look The whole piece is

starting to look good. We can do a few material
tweaks, some light intensity and position fixes and add light
cones. Ambient Occlusion is achieved with distance fields
so we can tweak their values. We want to have a nice
contrast between the background and the structure so the
silhouette stands out. We can tweak the sky and fog values
to a blueish colour, to complement the warm red and orange
values of the structure.
11 15

58 All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

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Texture a
ornate column
Dark Fantasy Ornate
Column, 2017
Substance Designer, ZBrush,
Marmoset Toolbag
Learn how to The goal of this project was to create a dark fantasy ornate column in a
• Master Substance Designer realistic style using Substance Designer
• Avoid traditional modelling
by using a curve node

n this tutorial, we’re going to take a detailed look at the 01
• Smartly use ZBrush to
speed up your process methods needed to create a fully procedural PBR texture
• Add a destruction pass using Substance Designer.
procedurally With this program in particular, moving too quickly into
• Generate a final render generating detail could make you lose track of where you
using Marmoset Toolbag
are and end up in difficulties. To help avoid this, we will
Concept gradually go through the different stages of production and
The goal of this project is to
master Substance Designer in
keep our graph structured and well organised.
order to make a hard-surface Simplicity is often the key in this type of very complex
ornate column using the node project, so we will analyse the best workflow to adopt.
collection in the program.
Occasionally this means making use of an external
program, such as ZBrush, to speed up our process and
save some production time.
By studying different techniques and combination of
nodes, we will also learn how to generate bas-relief,
cornices, patterns, cracks and inscriptions.
In the end, we will learn how to post-process in
Marmoset and finalise our shot in Photoshop.

01 Find references Reference images are the key to

success, so gather all that you can find. Books,
magazines, photos, concept art or pictures of freaky places
in the world… everything can be a good source of
inspiration. At the same time, start to define the artistic
direction that you want for your project. Are you looking for
a realistic render or something cartoony? Is it going to be a
tribal column or a gothic one? In this project, we’re aiming to
create a dark fantasy column in a realistic style, so let’s
analyse and determine the elements we will use to define
our style. In our case, we want to have cornices, gold
ornaments, gemstones, carved Latin inscriptions and bone
shapes sculpted in the stone.

02 Plan the composition Once the art direction is

sorted, let’s start by structuring the column with the
cornices. By creating the main horizontal shapes, you will be
more easily able to spread the other elements and define
the space you will need for each of them. In Substance
Designer, create a gradient_linear_1 node and connect it to a
curve node. In the Curve Editor on the right, you can
YOUR manipulate the different grey values of your gradient by
FREE creating and moving points along the curve. Here you can
accurately draw the profile of your cornice and balance the
DOWNLOADS hardness/softness of your bevels. This technique will speed
• Tutorial screenshots up your iteration process compared to a more traditional
approach using a common 3D program.


Don’t forget to set it to Pattern 03

Input in the Pattern tab, otherwise

the node will not display the shape
you’re plugging in

03 Set up the layout To easily place cornices along

your column, use multiple Transformation 2D nodes
and blend the results together. You can adjust the vertical
thickness by playing with the Height parameter of your
Transform 2D node and use the Vert Mirror option to add
more shape variety. Don’t forget, in the Tiling Mode
parameter, set your Transform 2D node on horizontal tiling
only. Also note that in our example we’re using the same
Curve node as input, but feel free to create more variation.
You can even use an Invert Greyscale node to generate
inverted versions of your original cornice.

04 Add/subtract shapes Now the layout is in place,

it’s time to start the first detail pass by adding/
subtracting shapes. To do so, use the Shape node and define
a primitive shape to use. Bevel it to add thickness and
smoothness. Then use a Tile Sampler node to make your
shape tiling. Don’t forget to set it to Pattern Input in the
Pattern tab, otherwise the node will not display the shape
you’re plugging in. Use a level to adjust the elevation, then
use a blend node to combine your shapes to the column
structure. Set the blending mode to Subtract, Add (Linear
Dodge) or Max, according to the desired effect. To add
vertical seams to your cornices, subtract a square shape
previously stretched as a thin line.

05 Ornaments Create a circular shape using one of the

cornices connected to a Cartesian to Polar node.
Add a paraboloid shape on top for roundness, then plug the
result in a Tile Sampler node. Play with the Scale parameter
of the shape and switch the blending mode of your Tile
Sampler to Max to enable you to superimpose patterns. Use
multiple histogram scan nodes to create masks and insert
your different elements properly. Once again, use Level
nodes to adjust the depth of each of your layers.

Texture with Slope Blur Greyscale

The Slope Blur node is one of the most useful and
powerful nodes in Substance Designer. It can be used
in many different ways, but in our case it will mainly be
used to create a damage effect on our cornices, our
bas-relief and so on.
When you blur a noise with a blur node, it creates
artifacts that once fed in a Slope Blur, will generate a
very interesting erosion effect. The blur Intensity gives
you the control on how chiselled the noise is. The
Slope Blur Intensity gives you control of how far the
effect is propagated.
Another trick to pinch a shape with this node is to
plug in the Slope Input the invert of what you plug in
the greyscale Input. Rather, if you plug the same shape
in the two inputs you’ll get an inflate effect, as you
would in ZBrush.
The program is a real toolbox, so don’t hesitate to
explore different sequences to create your own recipe.


In Substance Designer, one of the most important
parameters is the Tessellation. The scale and the
subdivision level will enable you to visualise the
modelling you are making in your Height map.
Don’t forget to vary the elevation of your elements in
relation to each other. Your column has to be
interesting visually from every angle, so the work on
the silhouette is of great importance and will impact
greatly on your final render. Try to interpret your
texture as a volume and not as a 2D map to take
advantage of tessellation.
When you’re making your bas-relief, these details
are going to help structure your column and will be the
main elements for catching the viewer’s attention.
Keep in mind that your composition also has to be
clear from a distance and not only seen in close up, so
spend as much time as necessary to find a good
balance between details and readability.


06 Create gemstones After some research and

studying different possibilities, we found it simpler
to make the gemstones in Maya. Gem cutting is an art not
easy to reproduce in 3D as it demands a lot of observation
to mimic the faceted effect in a realistic way. Use a
gem-cutting chart to help stick as close as possible to the
chosen model. Keep in mind that the shape is going to be
used as a height map and only seen from the top, so stay
focused on what is going to be visible. To extract the height
map, import your mesh in ZBrush, and in the Alpha palette,
use the Grabdoc option to capture your gemstone in top
view. We recommend you deactivate the perspective
distortion to switch to Isometric View mode.

07 Bones and skulls For the bones, ZBrush was the

most adaptive tool for us. So follow the same
process as the gemstones and used Grabdoc to capture the
height maps. Here you can spend some time sculpting your
own skeleton pieces but considering that the goal of the
project is mainly to focus on the mastering of Substance
Designer, you can just use a Free Skeleton Sculpt available
on BadKing ( Here you can download a
ZTL file containing a full biped skeleton with as many
SubTools as bones. Grab height maps from all the parts that
might be interesting with as many angles as possible (skull,
spine, jaw and so on). The more height maps you have, the
more choices you’ll have to create nice bas-relief.

08 First row of bas-relief Let’s begin with the bottom

row. Here we want to alternate between small
skulls and gemstones. Pick one of your height maps, here
with the skull looking down, and blur it slightly to smooth the
shape with a Blur HQ Grayscale. Add some irregularity and
damages by combining a Clouds 2 node, a Blur node, and a
Slope Blur Grayscale node. Once you find a good recipe,
duplicate your chain, and change the blur amount and the
intensity of the Slope Blur to make different variations. Use a
tile sampler to spread your skulls and don’t forget to change
the Pattern Input number to 3 to increase the number of
input slots available. Repeat this for the gemstones, blend
your two tile samplers together then use a mask to only
display the row at the good location.



09 Second row We want to alternate between skulls

and demonic eyes maintained by two sculpted
skeleton jaws. Here the process is pretty much the same as
before, except we are making a very different bas-relief. To
make the eyes, reuse one of your gems combined to a
squeezed paraboloid shape to make the carved pupil.
Connect the result to a Tile Sampler node. Blend together
the jaws and place them so they can support the eye and
face each other. Use one of your skull height maps and
damage it with different intensity to add variation. Blend the
three elements together in Max(lighten) mode and subtly
adjust the depth with Level nodes.

10 Detail the top row The top row is going to be the

main piece of our column and has to be the most
spectacular and attractive bas-relief of the composition. We
need to have a sample of all the elements that we used
before to stay consistent for a unique result. To do so, add
backbones to punctuate the bas-relief and add skull stacks,
gemstones, spikes and pyramid shapes.

11 Apply the backbone Import your bitmap and blend It

with the previously squeezed gradient_linear_2. In this
way you’re going to add roundness. Plug the result in a Tile

Sampler and set the x and y amount to 4 in the Instance

Parameters. Create a mask using a square shape to limit the
area you want to display spines and plug it as a mask map
input in your Tile Sampler. In the Color tab, adjust the Mask
Map Threshold slider to constrain the Tile Sampler to only
spread spines. Blur the result and use a Level node to control
the depth. To sharpen the dorsal spine, duplicate the Tile
Sampler and change the Pattern to Ridged Bell. Adjust the
size to fit your backbone, set the smoothness and the
intensity with a blur_hq_grayscale node and a Level node,
then blend the two tile samplers together.

Create a mask using a square

shape to limit the area you want to
display spines and plug it as a mask
map input

PBR Calibration
Physically-based shading transformed the way we
approach production texturing and radically simplified
the work of artists in the video game industry. The
emergence of programs such as Substance Designer
and Painter gives you the opportunity to make content
at a very high frequency of production. To learn in
detail about PBR Calibration and to understand more
about the evolution of rendering and texturing, we
recommend reading Sébastien Lagarde’s
documentation about physically-based rendering.
If you’re an Unreal Engine user, his PBR chart is a
reference that can be used whenever you need
accurate values to make a new texture. In this tutorial,
we used this chart to pick the Gold Albedo value, and
also set our greyscale range for the Metallic/
Roughness Maps.

To add character and some
more demonic details to the
column, use a Text node to create

12 Stack skulls Repeat the process for the previous

skulls, but ensure you avoid any repetition by adding
random damage. As with the Tile Sampler of your
backbone, constrain the area where you want to spread
your skulls with a mask. Using a blend, subtract the
rectangle, limiting your area and the backbone shape
previously clamped with a histogram_scan node. Now play
with the Mask MapThreshold slider to obtain the desired
amount of skulls. Subtly increase the Rotation Random
slider in the Rotation tab to add some more irregularity to
your skull stack.

13 Pyramids and spikes To add the final touch to your

main bas-relief, create a new Tile Sampler and set
Pyramid as Pattern. Rotate it 45 degrees, and use a
13 14
Histogram Scan node to chop off the top of the pyramid and
create a nice flat diamond surface. Now copy this Tile
Sampler three times to keep the same position settings. In
the first one, connect your gem stand as the input. In the
second, change the Pattern to Thorn, then feed the third one
with your gem heightmap. Adjust the scale of the spikes and
the gemstones to make them fit the size of the stand. Use a
gradient_linear_1, histogram_scan, and Transformation 2D
nodes to make a checkered mask. Then adjust it to alternate
between spikes and gems. Finally, subtract the silhouette of
the backbones and the skull stack from your composition to
trim it nicely, then blend the result with an Add(Linear
Dodge) blending mode.

14 Apply inscriptions To add character and some more

demonic details to the column, use a Text node to
create inscriptions. In our case, the Edwardian Script ITC
font fit perfectly for a carved Latin quote. Use the same
process to circle the column with the well-known number of
the Beast: 666. The final touch is to mark the forehead of
each skull with a pentacle. To do so, make the pattern in
Photoshop and blend each skull with the created bitmap.
Don’t forget to blend it just before the connection to the Tile
Sampler. In this way you’ll automatically spread the logo all
around the column.

15 Micro detail pass It’s now time to add the latest

micro detail pass. This pass will greatly help to link all
your elements together and will add the latest level of
realism to your height map. To create some cracks, use a
scratches_generator. In the parameters of the node, set the
Scratches Amount to 15 and the Scale to 1. Use a Directional
Warp to add some distortion to your scratches. Note that
you can use your height map as Intensity Input to have a
more consistent deformation. Use a Slope_blur_grayscale
with a blurred Clouds_2 node connected in the Slope Input
to create a chiselled effect to your scratches. Set the mode
to Max. In this way, you’ll disburse the shape of your
scratches, then by subtracting it to your height map you’ll
get a very nice rock shard effect. Finally, use grunge maps
and a fractal Sum Base node to add some granularity to
your column.


The closer the texture is to
white, the more it’s rough and
matte. If the texture is closer to
black, the material is smoother

16 Introduce colours Start by creating Uniform Color

nodes and picking simple colours. Make a mask to
isolate each element, then blend flat colours together. You
should have a mask for your gems, bones, stone and so on.
Once you’ve defined your main colours, in the Library folder,
use Mask Generators to add some soiling and deterioration
to your column. Here we have a succession of Dust, Leaks,
Edge Dirt, Sun Bleach and so on. Use as many generators as
necessary to tell the story that you want with your asset.

17 Gold effect Now let’s add some gold. To create a

mask that includes the different elements that you
want to cover with gold, go back to your height map graph
and identify each part that might be a good target. Here we
want to highlight the demonic eyes, the stands of the
17 18
gemstones, the circular ornaments and some parts of our
cornices. Use Histogram Scan nodes to clamp the values of
the different items and blend them together. You can also
simply use a Shape node combined to a Transformation 2D
node to delineate some areas. Once the mask is created, use
a Uniform Color node and use the Color Picker to get the
correct value for a PBR gold. Don’t forget to mask out all the
micro details previously created in your height map, to
remove the grain from your gold parts.

18 Control roughness The roughness is a greyscale map

that defines the reflectivity of your material. The
closer the texture is to white, the more it’s rough and matte.
If the texture is closer to black, the material is smoother and
shinier. With this in mind, use the different layers from your
height map to create variation between elements. Invert
your Ambient Occlusion and use the Curvature node
combined to a Level to get interesting gradient information.
To highlight details, play with your volumes with more
roughness in the cavities corresponding to the dirt. Use
grunge maps to add contrast and subtle details. For the
Metallic map, which here corresponds to our gold, create a
black-and-white mask where black is dielectrics and white is
metallic. In this manner, you’ll get a correct PBR value and a
hyperrealistic result.

19 Render in Marmoset In Marmoset, start by

importing a rounded cylinder mesh with UV
Coordinates. Create a new material and load all the maps
previously exported from Substance Designer, so in order of
the Material slots, Displacement (Height), Surface/Normals
(Normal), Microsurface/Gloss (Roughness), Albedo (Base
Color), Reflectivity/Metalness (Metallic) and Occlusion
(AO). Don’t forget to tick the Invert checkbox in the
Microsurface tab to have a correct roughness and to set the
Reflectivity tab to GGX to have a better quality in your
reflection. Create lights, find a nice camera angle and add
some postprocess effects such as Tone Mapping, Vignette,
and Bloom. Adjust the Chromatic Aberration and add depth
of field, then Export by clicking on Image in the Capture
section. Finally, import your beauty shot in Photoshop and
add particles, smoke effects and camera filters.

66 All tutorial files can be downloaded from:


D 201
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Arthur Gatineau
Arthur is a CG artist specialising in
Incredible 3D artists take us behind their artwork modelling, texturing and shading for
films and games, currently working
LIGHTING I really wanted to re-create as close as possible the mood of at Entropy Studio in Spain
the original concept art made by Fredrik Rattzen. To do so, I heavily used
light linking within Maya to art direct the image and enhance the Software Maya, ZBrush, Mari
composition. I also rendered the lights in several passes to have more
control over their intensity and colour in post. SummerReading,2017


Expert advice
v from
m industry professionals, taking you
o from
m concept to
t completion
All tutorial files can
n be downloaded from:


Generate procedural

oceans in Maya 2018
Diego Trazzi is a highly his short tutorial focuses on procedural oceans using at sea for the Beaufort Scale. This data will be published
accomplished visual effects BOSS (Bifröst Ocean Simulation System), part of shortly and contains video references, as well as data
professional with more than a
decade of hands-on
Autodesk Maya 2018 and the Bifröst framework. information, such as wind direction and speed, which can
experience working on some Boss is a wave solver and a spectral wave generator, be used in Boss for a physically accurate setup. The library
of the most important which means it can generate procedural waves to will be available for free.
VFX-based motion pictures.
resemble the look of an ocean, but it can also create great This short guide, due to formatting and word count
ripples and 2D simulations of objects falling in the water. restrictions, is limited to key points, therefore I strongly
The walkthrough lesson will demonstrate how to set up suggest following up with a specific Boss video tutorial.
a physically correct CG ocean based on the Beaufort Scale.
The empirical data collected from this scale is then used to
set up the ocean attributes for the CG Ocean. Using this
procedural system, the artist will be able to replicate the
01 Create the procedural ocean deformer
Start by loading Boss from the Plug-in Manager in
Maya, and create a new plane of 100x100m with 200
look of a Beaufort scale 4 sea condition. subdivisions. Once the plugin has loaded, you should see a
The tutorial additionally covers the rendering aspect menu named Boss appearing in the menu in the FX module.
using Arnold 5. This process presents the opportunity to Open the ‘Boss Editor’ and add two sets of procedural
extend the ocean simulation to the horizon using tiled ocean (Boss>Boss Editor, then click on the blue icon). The
displacement. It will also be shown how to add wind gusts ocean waves can be cached out as EXR sequence to be
YOUR and whitecaps to perfectly match a reference Beaufort used as displacement maps in Arnold. The Resolution

FREE scale 4.
Some of the reference material (tutorial screenshots)
[X and Z] setting (pixels) determines the amount of
details that the underlying procedural texture can capture –
DOWNLOADS that have been provided with this tutorial is part of an in other words, the smallest wave – whereas the Patch
• Tutorial screenshots
open-source project that I’ve started together with Igor Size (m) controls the largest wave that has been captured by
Zanic to collect and catalogue a complete list of conditions the ocean patch.

01 02

02 Ocean parameters The most important setting

to control the waves’ height is Wind Speed (m/s). In
addition to wind speed, Wind Fetch Distance (km)
determines the difference between small choppy waves and
a large swell. The accumulated energy from the wind is
trapped in the waves, and travels hundreds of kilometres
before reaching the shore. The fetch attribute describes the
patch size over which the wind is blowing. The larger the
patch size (expressed in km^2), the bigger and cleaner the
waves generated will be. Waves with a large fetch are
perfect for a surf session, since they are full of energy
and tend to be less choppy than those that have been
generated locally.

03 Set up a physically accurate ocean

To generate a realistic-looking ocean, I use values
from the Beaufort Scale. This is a good method of putting in
relationship an abstract set of values with real-life
measurements. Autodesk has done a great job of expressing
most of the parameters in Bifrost and Boss with SI Units,
03 04
which helps when looking for reference values online. For
the purpose of this tutorial, we are going to use one of these
references and match a Beaufort scale 4 filmed in Bussana,
Italy, which is described as a Moderate Breeze with some
breaking caps.

04 Boss values for Beaufort 4 First, set up the

large set of waves: Wind Speed to 6m/s and Wind
Fetch to 80 km. Set the Patch Size to 300 x 300, Wave
Height to 0.333, and the Resolution to 2048 x 2048. For the
small waves, set the Wind Speed to 6, Wind Fetch to 5 km,
Patch Size to 100x100, Wave Height to 1 and Resolution to
2048 x 2048. As a final touch, add some horizontal
displacement to accentuate the sharp features of the waves.
Turn on Use Horizontal Displacement for the small waves
and increase the wave size to 3.000.

05 Add Whitecaps and cache out the

procedural ocean Boss provides an easy solution
for adding whitecaps: select the set of small waves and
enable the Foam Attributes section. Use the following
values: Foam Diffusion Rate to 0.350, Cusp Scale to 1, Cusp
Min to 0.050, Cusp Max to 1.000, Use Speed to On, Speed
Min to 0.400 and Speed Max to 4.000. Once the foam is
set up, cache out the wave solvers as EXRs. This process
enables you to render the ocean as a displacement map. To
cache out the wave solvers, open the Boss Editor
(Boss>Boss Editor), select each solver and click on the
Cache Icon.

Creating a natural-looking ocean

To avoid texture repetitions, use irrational numbers
when setting up the patch size of your spectral oceans.
Texture repetition is not a common phenomenon we
see in nature, so it will make your renders look very
artificial. To avoid this, use numbers that don’t have a
LCM (irrational numbers). Irrational numbers have no
smallest number that can be written with integers, so
you will have no repetitions occurring. In other words,
use patch sizes that are numbers with a very high
LCM. That way, you will avoid tiling artefacts.


Scaling by half is necessary 06

because the projection node is

actually twice as wide/long

06 Displacement setup Use HyperShade to set up

an aiStandardSurface shader. For each wave
spectra, create a 3D displacement projection and a new poly
plane with 4 x 4 subdivisions. Apply a displacement node to
the ShadingGroup: set Vector Encoding to Floating Point
Absolute and Vector Space to Absolute, then set up file-path
and projections size, and scale the projection node to match
the ocean patch size. Rotate and scale the projection
manipulator to match the ocean (scale 150, 150, 150). Note
that the scale is half the patch size. Scaling by half is
necessary because the projection node is actually twice as

07 Multiple layers projection and render

comparison Use a layeredTexture to add the
small set of waves. Scale up the displaced plane to horizon
and increase the subdivisions to eight (Arnold’s section in
polyPlaneShape). Make a comparison render between the
deformed surface and the displacement. To better display
the subdivisions, switch to Debug mode Wireframe in the
Arnold render view (Render> Debug Shading> Wireframe.
This gives you a clear idea of how much geometry you are
rendering. Compare the deformed with displaced oceans:
when adding the EXRs as displacement, Arnold further
tessellates the geometry, generating more details.

08 Add wind gusts The reference picture also

shows wind gusts across the surface of the water.
To add this element, use a noise map to multiply the effect
of the small ocean waves. The output of this layer can drive
the displacement map and the specular roughness. To drive
the Specular Roughness of the Ocean Shader with the same
noise function used to modulate the displacement, add a
remapValue node to remap the incoming values (0 to 1)
between 0.2 to 1.

09 Shade the Whitecaps Similarly to the

displacement setup, project the foam onto the
surface using the EXR from the foam cache. It’s been better
08 09
to map the foam mask into the ‘Subsurface’ component
rather than Diffuse since Arnold 5 (Maya 2018). This is
because the new StandardSurface is an energy-conserving,
physically based shader. At this point you should have a
complete shading network with foam and wind gusts. You
can tweak the values or copy the settings from the Attribute
Editor screenshot on the side.

Because we are layering up two sets of waves, we
want to make sure not to double up on frequencies.
BossSpectralWave deformer provides a handy filter
cutoff option for this. Let’s set the Short Scale Cutoff
(m) for the large waves to 2, and the Long Scale
Cutoff (m) to 50000. For the small waves, we’ll set
the complementary, of those frequencies: 0.001 and
2.000 for Short Scale Cutoff (m) and Long Scale
Cutoff (m) relatively.

72 All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

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Master advanced
V-Ray materials
Bio n this tutorial, we will dive a bit deeper into V-Ray Displacement will come up in this tutorial in more than
Hussain Almossawi is an materials and explore different techniques to achieve one scenario, and it is good to see how we can use it on a
international product cool results. Using 3ds Max, V-Ray and Photoshop, the flat surface versus an unwrapped 3D object. Following that,
designer based in New York,
working at the adidas aim of this tutorial will be to better understand the we will start to make two shaders: the reflective silver
Brooklyn Creator Farm. potential of materials, and how we can start to elevate our brushed material, and the carbon fibre material. We will
His style is a combination
of modern, minimal scenes to the next level. Materials are not only the final then take those shaders and start to play with the V-Ray
and futuristic. finish and colour of an object; materials and mapping an Blend material, which allows us to combine and blend
object go hand in hand to create beautiful surfaces that different materials, and create very interesting masking
seem much more complex to create than what they effects, especially between shiny and matte materials, and
really are. solid and refractive materials.
We will take a look at the scene created specifically for We will also touch base on how to use the composite
this tutorial, use it as a case study and break it down into feature in V-Ray to mix different maps together in the
simpler steps to get the same results. I have intentionally same way that it works in Photoshop. Finally, we will
used simple objects to make this tutorial an easy one to add some minor details to our scene and make it feel
follow, but what you will learn from it will be applicable to more dramatic with the right amount of lighting by using
very complex scenes and objects as well. First, we will walk HDRI Maps.
through how the environment and terrain were created My intention behind this tutorial is to make it as intuitive
YOUR using maps, then we will get into best practices of and easy to follow as possible. 3ds Max and V-Ray have

FREE unwrapping an object, and the do’s and don’ts of

unwrapping UVs. We will then start to play with
amazing capabilities, and are filled with lots of hidden
gems. By learning just a few tools every time, and mixing
DOWNLOADS displacement and giving our objects different and the techniques together, you will end up with endless
• Tutorial screenshots
interesting forms using maps that we will create in possibilities and limitless variations of very cool and
Photoshop and Illustrator. exciting designs.

01 02

01 Create the terrain map To start off, create a

square plane in your scene with an equal amount of
segments in both directions – I usually go with no segments.
Apply the Turbosmooth modifier to start controlling how
many segments you will have; the higher the value, the more
dense your plane will get, and the more detailed results you
will have.

02 Basic displacement Apply the Displace modifier,

and in the ‘Map’ slot, put in a black-and-white map
of any terrain height map. This is usually the value of how
high and low a surface is, black being the lowest and white
the highest, and start playing with the ‘Strength’ values to
see the results taking place. A cool trick to make your own
terrain maps is to go into Photoshop>Filters>Render>Differe
nce Clouds, apply that filter three times, and bump up the
contrasts – this will give you a similar results. You can also
add more than one displacement map on top of each other
and play with different strengths and maps.

03 Unwrap – create seams In this case, start off

with a sphere, select it and apply the UV Unwrap
modifier. In your UV Unwrap settings, select Edge under
Selection, and then start selecting the edges you want by
holding Cmd/Ctrl on your keyboard. These edges will
determine how your sphere will be unwrapped and
flattened. Next, under Peel, select Convert Edge Selection to
Seams to convert your selection to seams.

04 Package the UV Now, we will choose the Quick

Peel option, which will cut the object up in the UV
Editor and give us an idea of if we did a good job cutting it up
or not, and how it will look laid out flat. In the top-right
corner, you can set the Checkered or the Texture Checker
view to see how a texture map would seamlessly fit on to
your model. Choose the Pack: Custom option under Arrange
Elements to fit all your pieces into the UV Editor view –
everything must fit inside that box for you to apply your
textures later.

Materials and mapping an 04

object go hand in hand to create

beautiful surfaces that seem much
more complex

Displacement Issues
Displacement is a very cool and quick method to
come up with very complex geometry, but on the
other hand, it has its own set of challenges to get
smooth and low-poly geometry. To try to achieve
smoother and better results, take into consideration
the amount of smoothing you apply to an object;
sometimes having less subdivisions and then
smoothing the final result would give you better
outcomes, and sometimes just playing with the blur
settings gives you smoother results – it’s a trial-and-
error process. Also, if your map has diagonal lines, and
your surface has linear subdivisions, changing the
orientation of the map or the subdivisions that follow
along the map would give you better results.


Get creative here and test
out what different maps would
give you

05 Create textures in Photoshop In the UV Editor,

go to Tools>Render UVW Template. You can now
save that rendered UV and import it into Photoshop. Use the
green lines as a guide only of where things fall inside of your
model, and start to apply your textures and visual graphics.
Go back into 3ds Max, and apply your new UV map to the
diffuse layer to see how it fits on to your model. The same
can be applied for all the maps in your V-Ray material.

06 Displace the mesh Just as we did in the first

step, make sure your model has enough
subdivisions on it by smoothing it out, and then apply the
Displace modifier. You can get really creative here and test
out what different maps would give you. Apply a map and
start playing with the strength values. Your displacement
will probably not look right, therefore you need to make sure
06 07
you are using the mapping from the UVs, so go ahead and
check Use Existing Mapping. To smooth the displacement
out, increase the value on Blur and as a cool effect you can
add Decay, which will let your map displacement fade off.

07 Metallic brushed material Set your Diffuse

colour to a light pink, or any colour you desire, and
your Reflection colour to white – the brighter the value, the
more reflective your material will be. Set your Reflection
Glossiness to .8 to make your material a bit less glossy.
Finally, add a black-and-white image of any painted brush
strokes into your Reflection Map – this will make some parts
of your model less reflective based on the values of black/
white taken from your image map. Untick the Fresnel
Reflections option to make the material reflect its
surroundings better.

08 Carbon fibre material For the carbon fibre

material, we want to achieve a similar result to how
it looks in reality, as if it’s made up of two layers with

different reflective properties. So let’s insert a texture of a

carbon fibre material into your diffuse map, and make sure
that you apply the show material in the scene to get a sense
of how big or small your map is being projected. Now you
should set your Reflect values to white and Reflection
Glossiness to .75, making sure that you tick the ‘Fresnel
Reflections’ option.

Unwrap issues
To Unwrap, always imagine you have an actual
physical object that you need to cut up with scissors
with the minimum amount of cuts to have it flat on the
table. It is always good to think about the kind of
textures and graphics you will be applying to it later,
because that will determine how you cut your object
up. For example, if I have a t-shirt, I will probably cut it
around the sleeves and not right through the middle,
because that’s likely to be a place I want to add my
visual graphics without having them to cut through the
seams that the unwrap creates.

09 10

Create your own

seamless patterns
A great way to create seamless vector graphics is by
using the Pattern Options in Illustrator, as it has some
really cool and easy-to-use features that allows you to
create great visuals. You can play with the grid,
spacing and orientation of your shapes, and also get a
good sense of what it would translate into as a
seamless and repetitive pattern. Once you have
finished creating your pattern, you will find it in the
Swatches window, allowing you to fill any shape with
your pattern. Just draw a box and fill your shape with
your pattern, and export it as a black-and-white map
that you can start using back in 3ds Max.

09 V-Ray Blend Material Blend Materials allow
us to use more than one material on an object,
and mask different parts of the material to show different
results. The same way you would select a V-RayMtl, choose
a V-RayBlendMtl. Add your Metallic material to the Base
Material slot – this will now make your entire model silver.
In the Coat Material, add the Carbon Fibre Material, and
this will now be the layer that coats your model with a
different material.

10 V-Ray Blend Material Masking A trick that I

find interesting is to apply the same map I added to
my model to displace it to the Blend Amount slot. This way,
your materials will follow the same shape of your geometry.
You can add up to nine different coats and keep masking
them, as well as play with the blend amount by changing the
colour from black to white (0% – 100%). You can also apply
Blend materials inside of Blend materials to create a
hierarchy of different materials inside of each other.

11 Blend Glass and Solid Materials We will now

apply those same learnings to get different results, but
using the same technique. Create a new V-Ray Blend
Material, and set your base material as a frosted glass
material (as taught in issue 111 of 3D Artist), set the coat
material as a shiny see-through glass material, and mask it
off with an interesting thin lined texture just like in the
example. Now, you can put an object inside your sphere
– this will create an interesting visual of see-through versus
frosted materials to reveal what’s inside.

12 HDRI lighting To finish off, we will apply the final

touches by applying a dramatic light effect to the
entire scene using HDRI lighting. I will use an HDRI map with
strong red and blue lights to create a nice contrasting and
dramatic look and feel to the scene. To apply an HDRI using
V-Ray, create a new V-Ray Light source, set the type to
Dome, enable the Texture box, and apply your HDRI map to
that slot. The benefit of using a V-Ray Dome Light as
opposed to the standard environment map on Max is the
amount of extra features V-Ray offers all in one place.

Apply Blend materials inside

Blend materials to create a
hierarchy of different materials
All tutorial files can be downloaded from: 77


Create a lightning
explosion in Houdini
I’m a VFX enthusiast, and
love to create realistic effects
for features.
his tutorial shows you my basic workflow in creating
the lightning explosion. I will mostly be talking about
the idea and my thought process, showing how I lay
02 Create RBD simulation I wanted to create some
interesting force field effects right before the mine
explodes. Therefore, I created two forces: one with softer
out and plan the whole shot before starting a project. This strength just to push the parts of the mine outwards, and the
is absolutely key in order to finish the shot on time, try to other stronger one that triggers later on in the frame when
keep it simple and layer the complexity later if time allows. the explosion detonates. The RBD wasn’t the main point of
I will also go through some tips on shading and shaping the this project, so I animated the time scale to get the time
pyro simulation, as well as the creation of the lightning. freeze effect. Then, by introducing gravity and bringing the
Hopefully this tutorial will give you a better understanding time scale back to normal and with a stronger force, I was
of creating a VFX shot from start to end. able to achieve the desired look.

01 Prepare Geo and Animation Planning ahead

before starting a project is crucial. In this case,
I know I’m creating a naval mine exploding in the air,
03 Create the lightning After nailing down the RBD
simulation, I’ve proceeded to creating the lightning.
The idea is to have lighting around the outer shell of the mine
therefore the mine has to be hollow on the inside for me to and a stronger lightning core creating a force field around
fill in fuel and temperature. I started the model in Maya, and the bomb right before it detonates. I’ve scattered the same
made sure that I modelled each panel of the mine to create amount of points on both the rods and outer shell, and
YOUR an interesting look. Fracturing in Houdini will give me a paired them up with an Add Sop which connects them

FREE voronoi look, and that’s not what I’m going for. I also made
sure that each panel I model for the shell are not
together. Then, I defined an attribute to trigger the lightning
in the frames it activates, as well as defining a lifespan for
DOWNLOADS intersecting. Next, nailing down the camera angle and each lightning. After that, I used Cd to blast away non-active
• Tutorial screenshots
motion is important so we can see and simulate our lightning, and the lightning turn on at a random frame range
explosion at a fixed angle for a better composition. defined with a fit node. To add detail to the lightning, I’ve

created and blended high-frequency noise for the big electric
waves and another lower-frequency noise for the details.
Finally, to mesh each lightning, I’ve defined a width attribute
based on the UVs of each line to get a tapering thickness at
the tip of the lightning.

04 Add the lightning core I’ve also made another

stronger force field-like lightning around the mine
right before it explodes. To achieve that, I’ve used a similar
technique for the lightning on the outer shell by scattering
points at the core where the explosion will happen and an
outer sphere that I’ve created. I’ve also used a Mountain Sop
on the outer sphere to avoid a smooth, round silhouette that
the lightning hits. The lightning striking out to the outer core
doesn’t really give me the force field effect I’m going for, so
I’ve made another layer of lightning along the outer sphere
that we created. I scattered some points on the surface of
the outer sphere and connected them by using Add Sop
– just skip every Nth point. With that, we get a random
connection of lines along the surface. To get a nice arc, we
need to add a third point in-between the straight lines. We
can do this by first resampling the lines to get a third point in
03 04
the middle, and then use neighbour count node to find the
middle points by filtering only points with more than one
neighbour. Then, take those points and displace them along
the normals of the sphere. Finally, convert it into a bezier
curve to get a nice, smooth arc and then we can add the
lightning detail we desire.

05 Pyro simulation source An interesting-looking

pyro simulation always comes down to the pyro
source. I want to create an interesting-looking pattern, so I’ve
used a simple sphere as the emission source for my
particles. To layer the complexity even further, I’ve used a
noise on the sphere to get a randomised emission source.
Also, I’ve emitted a layer of thin smoke first, and when the
inner core – which is filled with temperature and fuel –
ignites, it will push out the smoke. Lastly, I’ve emitted some
particles shooting outwards to get some fiery streaks
shooting out from the core.
01 05



06 Pyro simulation shape The shape of the

explosion is crucial to catch the viewer’s eye. Using
the micro-solvers, we can achieve very interesting shapes by
layering them one by one. First, we want to start with
turbulence, as it’s the main force that drives an interesting
shape. Isolate the turbulence by turning the other
disturbance forces off. After we get the big shape that we
want, we then create another turbulence force with a higher
frequency for the smaller details. For explosions, we want
the turbulence to be strong at the beginning and fade off
afterwards. One thing I like to do is to keyframe the
timescale; making the simulation twice as fast for the first
few frames from detonation gives the simulation more
explosive look.

07 Pyro shading As for shading the pyro, adding

dark areas within the fire ramp, as well as using a
sharper or spiky graph for the fire graph, will give you nice
hot layers within the fire. It will also give the fire a really nice
texture and also a darker area within the pyro, adding
another layer of realism. On the other hand, adding the white
values above 1.0 adds the blown-out hot spots at the very
07 08
core of the explosion. To achieve a pyroclastic smoke shape,
I like to use a gradient graph to get the round plume-like
smoke shapes of an explosion. Shading the pyro can be
time-consuming, but always try to get a wide range of values
within your fire so you can use it to get the desired look in
compositing. It’s much faster to tweak the values when
compositing than getting the desired explosion look in the
render itself.

08 Create cloudscape and lighting Having the

camera angle nailed at the very beginning helps
with designing the cloudscape. I only created six different
cumulus cloud shapes – you might think that it is far too few
for a cloud scape, but by rotating and even merging them
together, we can get a totally different-looking cloud. Then, I
placed them around the scene for a nice composition,
making sure that I had a clear foreground, midground and
background. Then I’ve lit the scene and made sure that the
clouds do not look too flat.

09 Dynamic clouds and scene interaction

Interactions among elements in a shot is important
to avoid having a shot looking like it is from a different world.
As for this shot, the mine needed some interaction with the
surroundings. But to make the whole cloudscape dynamic is
way too expensive and heavy to simulate. Therefore, by
strategically placing only one cloud in the area where the
mine flies through and simulate, that one cloud gives us the
interaction we need. To further blend all the different
elements together, having the light from the explosion
affecting the clouds is crucial. These simple additions
tie all the elements together, and thus gives us a more
complete shot.

Heat distortion
Having a heat distortion pass give the explosion
so much more believability. You can easily achieve
that by rendering a normal pass of a simple
sphere with noise and bringing it into nuke with the
idistort node.

80 All tutorial files can be downloaded from:

Igor Kulkov

Igor Kulkov is a freelance 3D artist

Incredible 3D artists take us behind their artwork from Russia. He specialises is high
poly modelling with texturing,
POSTPRODUCTION To get a more saturated glare from the render, I illustrations and 3D environments
used render elements (raw reflection, specular, ambient occlusion) for the Software 3ds Max, V-Ray,
subsequent flexible image processing, strengthening and weakening the Substance Painter, Photoshop
glare and shading in the image. To quickly get the necessary effects, for
example, contrast and saturation, I like to use Photoshop. Light in the Attic, 2017

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Industry experts put the latest workstations,
software & 3D printers through their pacess

Chillblast Fusion
Ryzen Render
VR Pro WX 7100
The introduction of AMD’s Ryzen processors make eight-core
computing a lot more affordable for 3D artists

he resurgence of AMD CPUs as a viable Choosing between AMD and Intel is a
alternative to Intel is perhaps 2017’s decision prospective PC buyers have had to
biggest PC hardware news. And this make for decades. The answer has always come
Chillblast Fuson Ryzen is the first AMD system down to the numbers – benchmark performance
to grace the pages of 3D Artist in years. versus cost, a calculation that has traditionally
Ryzen uses the new ‘Zen’ architecture, been favourable to AMD, but perhaps less so in
bringing performance up to a level that is recent history. With the launch of Ryzen though,
genuinely competitive with Intel chips in gaming our tests showed this affordable eight-core
and productivity applications, accompanied with processor to be more than capable of delivering
a pricing strategy that vastly undercuts the the serious rendering grunt artists require.
competition. Ryzen competes with Core i7 3ds Max 2015 was the first test we ran, with
processors in four to eight-core configurations, the Underwater demo completing in six minutes
with the more high-end Threadripper chips 45 seconds at 1080p. It’s roughly half the time
going up against Intel Xeons in eight, 12 and the old quad-core Core i7-4790K took.
16-core packages. All Ryzen processors support SPECviewperf scores showed the WX 7100 to
two threads per CPU core, and the line-up runs hold its own as well, with a strong Catia-04
with DDR4 memory, quad-channel in the case result of 102.99, and 71.41 in Maya-04, rounding
of the Threadripper part. off a generally great all-round performance from
This is all great news for artists, because CPU this workstation.
performance affects rendering times across the Cinebench 15 spat out a CPU score of 1630,
board, working with the GPU to various extents slightly behind the 1798 attained by Intel’s
depending on the program. The Chillblast Fusion ten-core Core i7-6950X we covered earlier this
Ryzen packs the Ryzen 1800X CPU, an year. Although we can’t directly compare
eight-core, 16-thread part, with a 3.6GHz base systems, we’re fairly certain the Ryzen 1800X
clock and 4.0GHz boosted frequency. does not quite meet the single-thread or
Additionally, the Fusion Ryzen comes packed multi-threaded performance levels of Intel’s
with all the same impressive component and current high-end Core i7 eight-core processors.
build quality that we’ve become used to seeing But with any multi-threaded software, having
from Chillblast, including a stunning SSD, a eight CPU cores is a fantastic benefit, that can
240GB Samsung 960 Pro, an Asus Prime make a serious dent in rendering times. With
B350M Ryzen motherboard, a Corsair Hydro Ryzen, you get those benefits in a system that
H60 CPU Cooler, a 750W FSP power supply, costs £500 less than Intel’s.
16GB of system memory and a 2TB hard disk. The decision is perhaps not about whether to
Housed in a Fractal Design Define Mini C case, spend the extra and go with Intel’s eight-core
the tower is a relatively svelte build. Inside, it’s no offering, but whether it’s worth even considering
surprise to discover that the components and a quad-core system for 3D work any more, given
cables are given plenty of airflow from a neat the advantages offered by Ryzen. While the
and tidy PC build. benchmark results aren’t showing Ryzen
Graphics are handled by AMD’s Radeon Pro completely trashing Intel on all fronts, it’s clear
WX 7100 card, a card that sits somewhere that if you use multi-threaded software, the
between a Quadro P2000 and P4000 in Ryzen 1800X is a more sensible choice than any
performance terms. quad-core processor, without breaking the bank,
The system costs a penny under £2,000 and this is perhaps the key point.
(including VAT). Although that’s not pocket Until now, the highest levels of multi-core
change, it’s a lot more affordable than the prices performance also carried the highest prices, but
many eight-core 3D workstations reach. AMD is seriously shaking up this situation with
Chillblast informed us that an upgrade to an Intel its new products. This advantage is likely to be
Core i7-7820X CPU, the most powerful Intel even more significant with Threadripper’s 16
eight-core processor, would add £500 to the cores going up against some of the priciest CPU
price (including the additional cost incurred with products Intel sells.
an X299 motherboard). Orestis Bastounis

MAIN Intel might still have the upper hand, but
Ryzen is making the option of eight-core
processors available to a much wider audience

BOTTOM LEFT The WX 7100 performed well,

although we did notice it becomes a bit noisy
when under heavy GPU load

BOTTOM RIGHT Chillblast’s workstations never

disappoint, and this one delivers a quality cooler,
PSU, fast M.2 storage and great build quality

BELOW If an eight-core Ryzen is this good, we

can’t wait to see AMD’s 16-core chips

This affordable
processor [is]
more than
capable of
delivering the
rendering grunt
artists require

Essential info
Price £1,999.99
CPU AMD Ryzen 1800X eight-core processor
GPU AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100
RAM 16GB memory
SSD Samsung 960 Pro

Value for money

AMD makes multi-core processing a lot more
affordable. Chillblast’s first Ryzen system is a winner


iClone 7
We take the latest release of Reallusion’s flagship animation
software for a spin and discover some new PBR features

eallusion has released a new version of Motion Puppet enables you to pick different
ABOVE After you’ve imported a character, you will see that
iClone 7, its popular software dedicated to actions from a gallery and also pick which parts there is a mini viewport on the side
character creation, animation, scene design of the body it will affect, so you can easily mix
TOP All panels show you the options that are available for
and cinematic storytelling aimed at film and them up. you to make changes to your work
virtual production professionals. Direction Puppet lets you pick a part of the
After the registration process is complete, body and record its movement by guiding it with
you’ll find a simple layout and a couple of
templates to get you started.
the mouse. We’ll be honest, it’s a little weird but
might come in handy.
Essential info
Being a GPU renderer is the core of iClone, Then there is the Mocap feature, which helps Price From $199
and your video card will dictate your level of you achieve real-time facial mocap. The Website
performance. If you experience lag, then in the software now works with professional face OS Windows
top bar there is a drop-down menu that offers tracking specifications, and is a neat thing to be HDD 1.1GB installer / 5GB minimum
High, Medium, Quick Mode and Custom able to do out of the box. GPU Starting from GTX 400 / Radeon HD
options, so you can find whatever best suits you. The Edit Motion Layer feature will be familiar 5000 series
In our tests, we imported a character from to anyone who has used Maya or Blender. You Internet Only needed for first setup
Template 1. After you have a character on scene, can use this to pick bone by bone, and by hitting
you’ll probably pick the first one as most of the
others require you to download an extra
W and E on the keyboard you get the Move and
Rotation widgets; if you hit F3 you’ll also get your
resource – and this push for an extra resource timeline. Hit the Key button and start moving Performance
pack also crops up in a couple of different areas, joints as you wish and animate as you would do Design
such as in the Edit in Character Creator option. in most other CG packages. Value for money
One of the cool things we found with iClone 7, In the end, though, we feel that even with its
though, is that it always offered a decent render. clean interface, it’s a clunky app that tries to get
Because it’s a full PBR viewport, it provides
good-quality assets by default.
you to buy more companion resources and
software to add functionality for most tasks.
You have a few options when it comes to Your money might be better spent elsewhere. Some of the default features are cool but to be an
applying animation to your characters. The Luciano A Munoz Sessarego interesting tool you need to pay for extras


NukeX 11
Foundry has released NukeX 11 after several months
of availability in public beta

ukeX 11 sees the continuation of a background rendering system by sharing work
Foundry’s focus on performance, stability over the number of render processes specified in
and open standards. If you’re just starting the preferences. In addition, you can also use
out with Nuke, the updated Tool Sets is worth a external machines as render slaves. The
look for seeing recommended techniques. It versatile and useful Smart Vector tools have
TOP The revamped Denoise Node lets you get better results
includes ready-made 2D and 3D example scripts been updated with renderfarm or Frame Server when removing noise or grain from your footage by
for common compositing tasks, such as vector rendering support, via the Output to averaging noise reduction over several frames
multi-pass rendering from popular third-party Write setting in the SmartVector Node. Also, the BELOW The CG_beauty Tool Set demonstrates splitting out
renderers, keying, particle systems and rig VectorDistort Node has a Blur size parameter and merging back layers from multi-channel EXRs using
common third-party renderers
removal. However, this is of little benefit if you’re that noticeably reduced distortion during testing.
experienced and like to work efficiently because The LensDistortion and Denoise nodes have
you’ll already have your own Node templates or also been spruced up with improved
scripts saved.
In terms of performance improvements for
functionality. Notably, LensDistortion gains
support for spherical and anamorphic lenses Essential info
day-to-day working, NukeX 11 includes the newly and a number of presets and distortion models, Price £5,533 / 5,359 / $8,060
introduced LiveGroup Node. This node serves as while Denoise adds a temporal processing Website
a container that provides a new collaborative option that now averages noise reduction over OS Windows 7 or Windows 10 (64 bit only)
workflow system by enabling artists working on several frames. Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) or macOS Sierra (10.12)
elements of a comp to directly share parts of Under-the-hood technical changes to NukeX CentOS 6 or CentOS 7 (64 bit only)
their script with one another at any time as a include VFX Platform 2017 compliance, RAM 8GB
LiveGroup. The workflow is very quick. All it updating NukeX’s core libraries and several Disk space 5GB
takes is a couple of clicks to create and publish third-party libraries to create a common target
nodes to disk that another artist can then import
into their script via another LiveGroup Node.
platform for software building, plus new library
versions for ARRIRAW 5.3 and R3D 6.2.2. New
AFF format support enables non-linear retimes Features
This retires the older and much slower workflow
imported from Avid Media Composer and also Performance
of passing work-in-progress rendered sequences
greater AMD GPU compatibility with Nuke’s Design
around. LiveGroups can also combine existing
through expanded OpenCL support in both Value for money
workflows achieved using Precomps, Groups
and Gizmos. However, while this is a certainly Windows and Linux.
useful feature, it isn’t really an essential reason
to upgrade.
While there are some useful improvements,
overall this release is lacklustre and gives little Verdict
For faster rendering, Frame Server has been incentive to upgrade. Much like a season finale, the release of NukeX 11
ported from Nuke Studio. It essentially works as Paul Champion leaves you wanting slightly more

w w w. p h o t o s h o p c r e a t i v e . c o . u k

rom all good
wsagents and

‡ Striking imagery ‡ Step-by-step guides ‡ Essential tutorials


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The inside guide to industry news,
VFX studios, expert opinions
and the 3D community

As a collective we have
recognised that to create
real change we need to
stop acting as individual
studios and come
together as one voice
Simon Devereux,
Head of learning and
development, The Mill

090 Community News

3D Artist wraps up the new event
that’s brought Soho together to
promote better inclusion

092 Industry News

OATS works with
Unity for ADAM
Neill Blomkamp’s OATS Studios
renders a new short in Unity for the
ADAM series

094 Industry Insider

Maxx Burman
The art director talks working
The Crown’s opening titles and his
illustrious career

096 Social
Readers’ Gallery
The latest images created by the
90 community
To advertise in The Hub please contact Chris Mitchell on 01225 687832 or 89

People of Colours
founder Nadira Amrani
speaks at The Mill

Soho’s VFX industry comes

together for ACCESS: VFX
The new initiative for promoting better inclusion and diversity was held across some of the
biggest VFX studios and coolest venues in the heart of London

CCESS: VFX kicked off on Monday 25 September This year, the event was held during National Inclusion
2017 for the first time ever, bringing together Week with the theme of ‘Connect for Inclusion’ across
industry leaders across The Mill, Double venues and studios including The Mill, Framestore, BFI,
Negative, MPC, Framestore, UK Screen Alliance, Escape Zero One, MPC and more, and 3D Artist was there to
Studios, Blue Zoo, ILM and more. experience the week firsthand.
With a commitment to encourage and champion An engaging mental health workshop brought an
diversity in the VFX industry, the movement is led by The active start to the Monday, followed by an interesting talk
Mill’s head of learning and development, Simon on inclusivity from a male perspective and short film
Devereux, and celebrates different perspectives, culture, showings. Tuesday, meanwhile, saw a panel discussion
ideas, backgrounds and people. led by Badass Women’s Hour focussing on women in VFX,
“For the first time in our history followed by a disability equality
the VFX community has joined workshop that taught different ways
forces to create ACCESS: VFX, an For the first time in of thinking in a team.
industry movement with one our history the VFX Wednesday began with a careers
common goal: to increase diversity community has joined fair attended by an incredible 150
and promote better inclusion forces to create ACCESS: students from underrepresented
within the creative sector,” says schools looking to break into the
Simon Devereux. “That’s eight
VFX, an industry world of CG. Each student was paired
world-renowned VFX studios, movement with one with a mentor from the industry to
seven industry institutions and common goal: to increase help guide and advise upon their
two government bodies. As a diversity and promote future prospects. At the same time, a
collective we have recognised that talk about the experiences of
to create real change we need to
better inclusion within the transitioning from male to female by
stop acting as individual studios creative sector Elle transgender columnist Rhyannon
and come together as one voice so Simon Devereux, Styles took place at The Mill, followed
that the inclusion priority cannot Head of learning and by a screening and discussion on the
be ignored.” development, The Mill making of Black Boys Don’t Cry, a film

Radio show The Badass
Women’s Hour held a
panel discussion
at The Mill

by IGGYLDN, which explores the roles of masculinity in

the 21st century. Then, an interesting talk was held about
digital filmmaking collective People of Colours, from
founder Nadira Amrani, as well as a thought-provoking
mental health awareness panel to finish off the evening.
Other events at ACESS: VFX involved looking inwards
at the animation and VFX industry themselves. Isobel
Stenhouse, production supervisor, feature animation at
Double Negative, discussed the working conditions and
subsequent mental health impact in the two industries,
and highlighted some action plans and positive steps that
managers can undertake for their team. Animated
Women UK ended the week with a panel called ‘Meet
The Parents’, which explored the challenges facing
This panel on mental
parents working in VFX and how employers can be more health aimed to raise
encouraging for working parents. Hosted by Animated awareness and
Women UK VFX Chair Louise Hussey, you can hear more
about the panel and read our interview with Hussey in
the next issue of 3D Artist. Isobel Stenhouse from
Double Negative
For a first event, ACESS: VFX successfully illustrated discussed improving
the power of Soho when it comes to opening up working conditions
conversations for equality and diversity. “ACCESS: VFX is
about taking action, challenging and calling out both our
creative community and educational establishments,”
says Simon Devereux. “We firmly believe that working as
a collective whole is the missing link to creating real
change. We proved that in just five days of events and
inspiring talks we can engage an entire industry. It’s easy
to talk about ‘getting into schools’ – we did that in a day
and are already planning activity with school careers
advisors and working to connect aspiring creatives to
industry mentors.
“Since the event, feedback has been refreshing and we
have begun to change the perception of diversity and
inclusion from being a fluffy, nice-to-have worthy cause
to an absolute, total and utter imperative if we are to
succeed both creatively and commercially.”
Looking to the future, Devereux reveals that more
activities are in the pipeline, “We’re now beginning the
process of growing ACCESS: VFX as an industry body
rather than a working group formed to put on an annual
event. With monthly activity already scheduled with both
a focus on outreach and studio engagement, I can safely
say that ACCESS: VFX isn’t going anywhere.”
Keep up to date with the organisation at

Get in touch… @3DArtist


Unity and
Collaboration will strengthen
Unity’s link with Autodesk
3ds Max and Maya
Unity has become the first creation
engine to gain access to Autodesk’s FBX
SDK source code, allowing the
development of a non-destructive
workflow between the tools. The new
2017.2 FBX Importer/Exporter package
includes a custom Maya plugin, and
The next short in the
series is called features support for GameObject
‘ADAM: The hierarchies, materials, textures,
Prophet’ and will be
released in 2017 Stingray PBS shaders and animated
custom properties.
“Autodesk is very interested in making
media and entertainment artists’ work

Neill Blomkamp as seamless as possible, and the

workflow between 3D art tools and
engines is a big part of that effort. 3ds

goes real-time Max and Maya users often utilise Unity

technology, so we want to provide the
best possible connection between these
tools,” said Marc Stevens, vice president
OATS Studios’ new short film ADAM is rendered in of Entertainment, Autodesk.
“Unity developers turn to Autodesk
real time with Unity for the deepest 3D modelling and
animation toolsets available,” said André
The latest instalment in the ADAM franchise has the power of Unity 2017,” said Blomkamp, Gauthier, studio lead at Unity. “Together
been created and produced by Neill Blomkamp’s director of District 9 and founder of OATS Studios, we are improving FBX interoperability to
OATS Studios using Unity 2017. The short “The fact that we could achieve near photorealistic increase productivity and give creators a
highlights the advantages of working in an visuals at half of average time of our production better workflow in their asset pipelines
integrated real-time environment to create cycles is astounding. The future is here, and I so they can unleash their creativity.”
high-quality graphics at a fraction of the time and can’t wait to see what our fans think.”
cost of a normal film production cycle. The first in a series of videos and articles that
“Ever since I started making films, I’ve dreamed take you behind the scenes has also been
of a virtual sandbox that would let me build, released on Unity’s YouTube Channel. Further
shoot and edit photorealistic worlds all in one content focused on key technical innovations will
place. Today that dream came true thanks to be unveiled in the coming months.
“Neill Blomkamp and the OATS team are
constantly on the cutting edge of technologies,
Virtual World created so it was an honour that they chose to craft
through photogrammetry their next world within Unity,” said Clive
OATS Studios shot more than 35,000 Downie, CMO of Unity Technologies. “When we
photos of environments and props for released ‘ADAM’ back in 2016, we meant it
‘ADAM: The Mirror’, and after the initial as a technical demo to showcase the possibilities
photogrammetry solve, they imported of Unity, and it’s amazing to see our tools
these into Unity using the delighting tool. evolve to enable photorealistic, immersive worlds
This allowed OATS to quickly create rich like those that set the scene for ‘ADAM: The
and complex materials without the need to Mirror’ and ‘ADAM: The Prophet.’” ‘ADAM: Unity and Autodesk have been working together
spend time to model hi-res models. The Mirror’ can be seen on OATS Studios’ to dramatically improve FBX support
YouTube channel.

HAVE YOU HEARD? Oculus has announced a new all-in-one stand-alone VR headset called Oculus Go

Cheetah 3D has Render quality and speed has been
vastly improved with the introduction of

a mammoth
new render engine Falcon

Long-standing Mac-only application
for 3D artists has been modernised
from the ground up
In the five years since Cheetah’s last major release,
MW3D-Solutions developer Dr Martin
Wengenmayer has rewritten parts of the software’s
core architecture. The release includes over 100 new
tools and features. Chief among them is Falcon, a
new unbiased uni-directional pathtracer render
engine. Notably, Falcon supports Cheetah’s new
physically based BRDF material system, 8K render
output, camera and object Motion Blur, and has
efficiency gains including rewritten CPU multi-
threading and reduced memory usage. Cheetah3D
7.0 costs $99 for a single-user licence.

Nukeygara Yeehaw Wand makes 3D magic

releases New device reduces technical
barriers for artists who want to
Akeytsu 1.0 create and print 3D objects
After a lengthy beta stage, the The Yeehaw Wand lets artists sketch objects
rigging and animation toolset is in 3D space by detecting hand movements. A
now available separate round plate is also included for
rotating your design as you work. The Wand
Based on the notion that animation tools are Bluetooth connects to iOS and Android
too convoluted, Akeytsu is designed to simplify devices via an app that supports AR
things. Highlights include Light Rig and Skin previewing the model before committing to
tools letting artists click a skinned mesh and 3D printing, which is achieved at the touch of
create poses, an integrated F-Curve Editor in a button on the Wand. If you don’t own a
the 3D Viewpoint, IK/FK Solver without printer, you can also have your work remote
complex Manipulators, and a ‘Cyclemaker’ that printed and delivered to your door. The
mirrors a character’s Motion Cycle once Yeehaw Wand will be crowdfunded on
animators have set up the animation. It is Kickstarter, and is due to ship before
available in three versions: Learn, Indie and Pro. Christmas. Stay up to date with product Yeehaw Wand uses real-time vision identification and
release details at tracking technology to define the 3D coordinates

Software shorts Bringing you the lowdown on product updates and launches
Substance Painter 3ds Max 2018.3 Instant Terra
2017.3 Update 3 introduces a multi- 3D terrain creation software
The latest update brings seamless threaded fluids simulation system Instant Terra is available in public
exporting to Felix, making assets inside 3ds Max for creating beta version. The node-based
ready-to-render in Adobe’s latest compositing realistic liquid behaviours. The Arnold plugin tool supports unlimited terrain sizes, and has
and rendering tool. There’s also access to gITF MAXtoA has been updated to support fluid settings for effects such as rain and wind erosion
2.0 exporter, a universal 3D scene format that is rendering with BIF file output. There is also a to provide natural and realistic-looking
PBR ready and open source, and a new new Motion Field Force for affecting fluids, landscapes. Different types of terrain and masks
auto-backup plugin for incremental saving that particles and deforming meshes at the can be exported as meshes or Heightmaps to
features a snooze setting. same time. DCC applications.

DID YOU KNOW? Autodesk is now accepting submissions until 1 December 2017 for its 2018 Post VFX and games reels


Maxx Burman
The art director and matte
painter on his biggest projects,
and introducing 3D into the mix
Job title Freelance art director

and matte painter t age 18 and intent on working in the visual effects
Location Los Angeles industry, Maxx Burman scoured the Los Angeles
Website phone directory for relevant studios hoping one might offer him work in his area of interest; matte painting.
Biography Maxx Burman “I rang every studio in the phone book offering to work
broke into visual effects by
learning matte painting from for free,” he recalls. “The very last one, Zoic Studios, gave
one of the masters, Syd me an internship, so that’s how I got my first job.” It would
Dutton, at Zoic Studios. He’s
since worked at several VFX turn out to be an enlightening choice for Burman, since
studios as a matte painter, master matte painter Syd Dutton was at the studio and
concept artist and art
director, including on the passed on to the younger artist many of the finer points of
opening titles for Westworld this important visual effects technique.
and The Crown.
Burman would go on to become a freelancer at
Portfolio highlights
numerous VFX studios such as Digital Domain, MPC, Sony
• Titanfall 2, 2016
Pictures Imageworks, Psyop, Blur, The Mill, Stargate Digital
• The Crown, 2016 01
• Westworld, 2016
and Elastic. He also started his own studio, Skyward,
• Game of Thrones, 2015 moving into art direction and visual effects supervision.
• Far Cry Primal, 2015 Many of Burman’s projects over the years have involved
• Godzilla, 2014 2D concepts and design, but more recently he has seen the
• Iron Man 3, 2013 need to adopt 3D for a hybrid approach. “I hit this point a
• Her, 2013 couple of years ago where I realised that if you didn’t use
• Dark Souls 2, 2012 3D you were going to get left behind, and that matte
painting was really going the way of being more of a 3D
generalist than anything else. So I’ve had to adopt a lot of
different 3D software in order to keep up with what’s being
asked of matte painting these days.”
Burman’s go-to 3D tools are Maya and KeyShot. He says
he also works in Cinema 4D, ZBrush, 3D-Coat, Vue and
SpeedTree in generating CG geometry that will become
part of a concept or a final matte painting.
One stand-out project for Burman is the opening titles 02
for Netflix’s The Crown, for which he was the art director for
Elastic’s Patrick Clair (he worked in a similar role on HBO’s
titles for Westworld). The Crown’s title design involved
macro views of a crown being formed, complete with
diamonds and gems. “For the design of it,” says Burman, PORTFOLIO
“we had a 3D modeller go to town on trying to get as
accurate as possible to the [real] crown. And then I started Maxx Burman’s portfolio website,
dropping in cameras and rendering these views out to see built with Fabrik, showcases both his
how we could take a real object and turn it into beautiful freelance work and personal designs
abstract designs by playing with the shape and colour.”
Although his role as a freelancer enables him to As a freelance artist, Burman was on the lookout for
contribute to a broad range of projects, Burman believes it an elegant web builder that would enable him to
has been important to also pursue personal projects when create a portfolio of his many and varied projects.
possible. He has a videogame being released on Nintendo “Getting your work out there is everything,” he
Switch next year, and he’s been developing an art show of says. “It doesn’t matter if I do an amazing painting if
personal projects called Disconnect. no one sees it. There are so many great digital art
“I’ve been using a lot of 3D for Disconnect,” says Burman. communities, and I try to stay involved with them,
“It’s been a great project to play with new tools. I’ve taught but really, clients want to see a real website that’s
myself KeyShot while working on this and been playing easy to navigate and showcases the art well. I use
with 3D-Coat a bunch, too, then completing the more Fabrik, it’s an amazing web builder designed
complex builds in Maya.” specifically for artists.
He adds; “Doing these personal paintings has also “Having a well-designed and easy-to-navigate site
helped me reconnect with what I enjoy doing and is so important if you want to be treated like a
reminded me why I love painting. It’s a great way to help professional,” he adds.
me start to find my own style and my own voice.”


I hit this point a

couple of years ago
where I realised that if
you didn’t use 3D you
were going to get
left behind
Maxx Burman,
Freelance art director
and matte painter

01 This environment for Her was designed to be a

near-future Los Angeles, just to hint at the
technological themes in the film

02 Burman worked with Elastic to help design the

jewel-encrusted opening titles for The Crown

03 At Digital Domain, Burman was involved on

the matte paintings for Iron Man 3’s ‘barrel of
monkeys’ sequence

04 Concept frame for the opening titles to

Westworld, which explored the translucencies
of skin and tissue

05 A painting taken from Burman’s personal

series called Disconnect, which explores
themes of a dead Earth

06 Disconnect is a project that Burman has used

more and more 3D tools on in order to
06 generate geometry

Images of the month

Here are some of

our favourite Editor’s
3D projects
submitted on choice
in the last month

01 The Ark
by Rico Suyang Wang
3DA username
Rico Suyang Wang says:
“This is a personal project, I have
always been into steampunk worlds
and stories of adventure. The idea
came from a doodle in my sketch
book. I blocked it with Maya and
painted it in Photoshop.”
We say: Wow, the sense of
claustrophobia and awe provides
a stunning atmosphere. We also
love the way the light falls on
the ark onto the cave below.
Fantastic concept.

02 Woman
by Alan Prado
3DA username
Alan Prado says:
“This is a personal project I
did to study portraits and skin
shaders. The dress texture I painted
with Substance Painter and skin
was achieved using AlSurface
for V-Ray.”
We say: There’s a lot of power in the
woman’s face here, and the subtlety
really works and we love the
intricate details of the lace. It’s
amazing that Alan chose to paint on
some of those textures!

03 Harvesters by
Denis Osmanbegovic
3DA username
Poligonz 01
Denis Osmanbegovic
says: “I wanted to create a large
sense of scale with a rich story and
alien life while maintaining 30 fps. I
like creating environments that feel
they could exist in real life. Software
used are Blender, Unreal Engine 4
and Quixel Suite. I spent about 60
hours making this.”
We say: With an abundance of
details elements in Denis’ real-time
environment, we feel like we could
easily get lost here. A spectacular
use of Blender with UE4 and Quixel!

04 One with
nature by Walk the
Room AB
3DA username
Walk the Room AB says: “The main
focus of this view was to blend
simplicity and space into something
attractive, and connect the
development to nature just around
the corner. A calm and fulfilling life.
Design concept was by Note
Design Studio.”
We say: There’s a wonderful
warmth emanating from this
sunset, and it’s the glow and the
rest of the lighting that really
makes the scene. Nice work!

Create your own gallery at


03 04


Oxygen is a creative studio that
Incredible 3D artists take us behind their artwork specialises in arch vis. It provides
visual support for different
LIGHTING The light scheme for this is from a HDRI Map by Peter Guthrie companies around the world
( inside a V-Ray Dome light and combined with a V-Ray Sun Software 3ds Max, V-Ray,
for soft shadows and warm highlights. Rather than concentrate on Photoshop
settings and parameters, we focused on the correct hierarchy between
light intensity and colour temperature for a high level of photorealism. AxisVianaHotel,2014