Behind the Scenes of John Carter with Kevin Hudson and ZBrush!

Pixologic recently published another great example of just how important ZBrush is to the design workflow within a live action film and an amazing effects studio. Kevin Hudson talks to Pixologic about how he and his team at Double Negative use ZBrush to create the fantastic characters in the recent sci-fi fantasy film, John Carter.

How did you come to be involved with the John Carter project? What was your role in the production?

I was recruited by Double Negative Visual Effects in London from Los Angeles to head up the modeling effort on this major Character piece. To date, it was the largest project they’d tackled. While in California, I first tried out ZBrush while working on Ghost Rider. I expanded its use to build the sixteen Zombie creatures for I Am Legend. I then used it to sculpt Dr. Manhattan for Watchman. But with over forty characters, John Carter was going to be the largest scale ZBrush character project that I’d ever attempted. It was also going to be Andrew Stanton’s first foray into live action film making, which meant we had to do an outstanding job.


What was the overall pipeline for your work on this project?

We received ZTools of character concept sculpts from Legacy Effects that had been developed with Andrew Stanton in California. We then took these and retopologized them in Maya using some basic Maya shrinkwrapping tools. I don’t use anything tricky for my retopologizing, but use Maya’s World Space Transfer Attributes tool to shrinkwrap my retopologized model onto the concept sculpt.

We then used ZBrush’s Projection tools to extract as much data as possible from the initial concept sculpt. The model was then reposed into a more standard pose and we began resculpting with an eye for preserving as much of the concept sculpt’s intentions as possible. Everyone would have a say at this point and often revisions to the anatomy to better serve rigging would be done.

We also made modifications to proportions based on animation tests using the basic model. All of this would lead us towards our final production models and sculpts.

ZBrush did a great job when reprojecting new topology onto our sculpts over the many generations of revisions throughout the show. I found that by taking the Blur setting down to 1 we preserved a lot of good detail. Andrew, who had spent a lot of time with Scott Patton at Legacy Effects, was very much in love with his characters and was always there to smack us if we varied too much from the original concept.

Was ZBrush used for environments at all?

The Environment team — headed by Guy Williams — also used ZBrush to touch up all the environments to give the stone a weathered and chipped look. They built intact structures, then used the Clipping brush to chip and flatten sections in order to make them appear old and broken. These chunks were then retoplogized before more subtle weathering was done.

What character posed the greatest challenge for you?

Tars was the biggest challenge and a lot of modelers all had an impact on Tars. He is on screen a lot, and there was a lot of talk about the character looking like Willem Dafoe, or at least his essence. We did a lot of exploration on how much it should look like Willem Dafoe — at one point we did a reworking of Tars to incorporate a lot of Willem Dafoe’s facial characteristics. This was often refered to as the “Eleven” version. Ultimately, we backed off from this almost completely and returned to the original concept.

In the film industry, this process of coming back to the original concept isn’t uncommon. Sometimes, the director needs to explore all the variations to confirm that the original inspiration was the best. Or at least, what they really wanted.

The White Apes were a technically challenging character because of their size and ZBrush poly count. I really took ZBrush to the limit and ultimately had to break the model up into separate UDIM pieces in order to export the displacement maps. For the most part, all of the characters were able to be exported using the Multi Map Exporter from ZBrush, but because of the high poly count on the Apes we couldn’t do this. I used the Group UV tool to create separate groups for each of the UDIM tiles. I then then used the Groups Split tool to break the White Ape mesh up into separate SubTools. Even with splitting the model up, it was a challenge exporting the maps, as I maxed out the RAM on my machine.

To read the full interview in detail click here.

V-Ray for Rhino 1.5 is Here!!

 

V-Ray for Rhino 1.5 Has Landed

Chaos Group announced today the widely anticipated release of V-Ray for Rhino 1.5. The release builds on the proven success of the previous version whilst introducing further enhancements to provide even greater functionality, performance and ease of use.

Possibly the most eagerly anticipated feature is realtime rendering (RT). RT provides a live rendering interface allowing users to immediately preview changes. This is great if you are testing out different materials, lighting options, camera settings, views and such: simply make a change, check the live visual.

V-Ray’s realtime engine utilises the CPU but in the future may make use of the GPU as with some other versions of V-Ray. The RT renderer uses the same processes as the normal V-Ray core, so the results produced are the same.

 

There are many other great new features to V-Ray for Rhino 1.5 – including:

  • Dome lighting tool with easy to control HDR input,
  • RAM-saving V-Ray Proxy to reduce the overhead on high polygon count models & add interoperability with V-Ray for 3DS Max and other versions of V-Ray
  • Dispersion – a simple switch and variable to add realism to refracted light in translucent materials
  • New ambient occlusion settings to improve upon weaknesses in global illumination (GI)
  • New ‘Retrace Threshold’ settings which can be used to correct weaknesses in light caching and improve accuracy of GI, especially on interior renderings
  • New camera tools to improve photo-realism and potentially save post production in Photoshop

To upgrade, buy a new license or just find out more, visit the V-Ray for Rhino product page.

New Keyshot 3.1 is Here!

In this new update Luxion introduces all new time-saving features and improvements. This includes unique metallic paint material, material templates that allow 3D professionals to ‘auto-paint’ their models, interactive HDR editing that allows real-time editing of the lighting environments, network rendering to queue render jobs and spread them across multiple computers, improved animation interaction, Maya importer and improved texture mapping!

To buy the very latest version of KeyShot or for more information click here.

Vray For Softimage Released!

Vray for Softimage is the latest addition to Chaos Groups suite of rendering solutions.

Some major features of this are:

  • ICE support
  • Complex mesh support using V-Ray Proxy objects
  • Versatile shaders with V-Ray materials
  • Quick and accurate global illumination.

Others include:

Shading with V-Ray for Softimage

Create materials quickly and easily using V-Ray Materials, and simplify the creation of complex, layered materials with the V-Ray Blend and V-Ray Car Paint Materials.

Render Elements
Take control of your compositing workflow using the expansive list of Render Elements.

V-Ray Proxy
Manage scene memory and efficiently render massive amounts of geometry using V-Ray Proxy objects.

Hair & Fur Shading
Render hair and fur with unprecedented quality, control, and speed with the VRayHairMtl shader.

Check out the full list of features in V-Ray for Softimage and see pricing information and supported platforms here.

LumenRT 2 Review for SketchUp Out Now!

E-on Software have released a new version of LumenRT.  LumenRT is e-on software’s revolutionary 3D technology for the interactive visualization of architectural projects. Create high quality real-time visualizations of your models and explore them with your mouse!

With its new real-time engine, LumenRT 2 has a number of new features and enhancements, including:

– Complete physical simulation of light
– Physically accurate reflections
– Adjustable time of day
– Precise anti-aliasing and motion blur
– Soft shadows with varying softness
– Water and underwater effects
– Advanced material rendering
– Realistic skies
– Low quality mode for optimized performance on slower boards

LumenRT 2 Review is available for SketchUp on the Macintosh (OS X 10.6) and Windows (XP, Vista and Seven) platforms

The realtime engine is compatible with Google SketchUp, with support for other platforms coming soon, and allows for publishing scenes as self-contained executable files that play on PCs and Macs. A trial version is available for download.

CAD Software Direct Now Official UK Resellers of Maxwell Render!

CAD Software Direct are proud to announce that we are now official UK Resellers of Maxwell Render.

Maxwell Render is a recognised standard in architectural visualisation, product design, interior design, film/animation production, engineering and other markets that require the highest render standards. The technology behind Maxwell Render enables users to create materials, set lights and cameras, and render 3D scenes, all in a stunningly realistic and intuitive way, resulting in images that are indistinguishable from photographs

We have the full range of Maxwell Render software on CAD Software Direct. This includes standard licenses, upgrades, RenderNode licenses, educational licenses and classroom packs.

Becks Vier Commercial Borne of Rhino, Cinema4D, V-Ray Workflow

The recent TV commercial for Becks Vier’s new square necked bottle was produced using a combination of key 3D packages.

 

The ad was created by Zeitguised, with production company Blinkink for Mother. The 20 second ad features a completely self-designed environment, incorporating original models, textures and lighting. The Becks Vier bottle was modelled in Rhino; ZBrush was then used to further texture the bottle. Cinema4D was used for animation and V-Ray for rendering.

E-on Software Release Vue 10

E-on software have now released Vue 10 Infinite and Vue 10 xStream and have also announced that it will release the new versions of the Vue product range such as, Pioneer & Theme-packs, Frontier, Esprit, Studio and Complete  in mid November 2011.

 

Vue 10 adds a number of new and extended features such as:

  • Spline and Road Tools: Vue 10 includes a comprehensive spline toolkit that can be used for EcoSystems, terrain effects, building roads or creating objects. An automatic path-finding algorithm can also be used to build realistic roads at the surface of terrains.
  • Dynamic Rocks: Vue 10 features a library of dynamic rock templates that can be used to instantly create single rocks, groups of rocks, or use them in EcoSystems. Each time the user creates a rock from a template, a new and unique variation will be generated.
  • Physical Transparency and Water Shaders: Physical transparency adds absorption and scattering parameters to allow for realistic light absorption in glass or in a body of water. Ocean waves now accurately affect incident light to produce realistic underwater caustics.
  • Render Comparison: The new render display dialog now lets the user stack and compare previous renders. Users can overlay and compare 2 renders (including multi-pass layers) and use HDR difference tools for in depth analysis. Lightweight render clones can be created to test various postprocessing effects, without altering the original render.
  • EcoSystem Phase and Lean-out Control: Vue 10 lets the user individually control the phase (animation offset) of animated elements inside EcoSystem populations for creating more natural animations. Phase is totally user-controllable on a per instance basis, using the function graph. EcoSystem Lean-out Control lets the user define how the EcoSystem instances lean out towards zones of lower density.
  • Terrain Editing Improvements: Users can now precisely preview the active zones when painting with a brush that has Environment Constraints applied. A new Custom 3D terrain brush is added to the brush collection. Mask rotation can also be enabled/disabled when painting in the terrain editor. Material painting in the terrain editor is markedly improved. A new Strata3D node is added for the creation of realistic canyon walls and stratified rock formations. And much more!
  • Edge-based Anti-Aliasing: A new edge-based anti-aliasing algorithm is added to complement the previous color-based anti-aliasing strategy. Both AA settings can be configured independently.
  • Improved Depth of Field and Motion Blur.
  • Up to 30% Faster Rendering Speed*: Significant internal optimizations made to Vue 10’s rendering engine will result in dramatically accelerated rendering.
  • And much more: new “Main View Defined” Aspect Ratio, Multiple Camera Aspect Ratio Variation, Improved Render Area, Texture Projection Node, Mixed Materials Alpha Channel, Collada Morph Targets…
  • Plus all the new features introduced in Vue 9.5 such as GPU Anti-Aliasing, FastHybrid Depth of Field, Atmosphere Relighting, Localized Cloud Layers, Advanced Cloud Control, Interactive Texture Placement, Custom Star Maps and more.

These products are now available to view and purchase from CAD Software Direct.

Maxon’s 99frames Competition

 

 

This is a contest that anyone can join, regardless of their skill level. This competition has a restriction of 99 frames to make it easier to create an entry. Everyone can and should be inspired to take part using the new features of CINEMA 4D R13 to create their own animation.

After the contest has ended Maxon will composit all 99frames animations to make a large clip with a specially composed soundtrack that will be made available to the global community.Everyone involved is then encouraged to pass this composition on so they can show everyone their contribution to the 99frames competition.

To inspire participants even more, Maxon are giving several amazing prizes to the winners ranging from plugins to a VRAYforC4D license or even a CINEMA 4D Studio Version! The winners will be selected by a jury of industry experts: David Lewnadowski, Kay Tennemann, Manuel Casasola Merkle, Mike “the monkey” Senften, Nick “GreyscaleGorilla” Campbell and Rizon Prein

The competition is being run by David Drayton, a Cinema 4D Product Designer for Maxon.

So get your CINEMA 4D engine running and get to work!