Art Spotlight: Crow-Bar

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Who?

Hi! My name is Geoffrey and I live in Lyon in France. I used to work as a computer salesman and until one day I decided to change careers in order to live my passion as a 3D modeler. Accordingly, I followed a training course at the ARIES art school and since then, I have been doing everything I can to be able to work in the video game industry, or at least in the field of real time 3D, while continuing to improve my skills through personal projects.

I am someone who likes “constructive” reviews about his work and never takes anything for granted, even if I do dream of some “social stability” in my life. But at the same time, my biggest defect is that I have some sort of a Saiyajin pride within me always ready to explode and sometimes life teaches you that you need to swallow that same pride it to be able to see the path clearly and move in the right direction. But of course it is easier said than done!

What?

First of all, thank you for the feedback on my “crow-bar” project, a simple like or comment doesn’t seem like much but when you live in a time where acknowledgment is almost nonexistent, it can motivate you more than anything (and being the staff pick really is the icing on the cake!). The exercise of writing and describing the process of a personal project was actually very difficult for me because of all the rollbacks and research I had to do at different stages, but I will try to be as clear as possible.

How?

I followed the basic workflow Pre-production -> Production -> Post-production

Pre-production:

As quoted in the project description, I got the idea from a play on words “A crow in a bar with a crowbar”. So I started on this idea with a more “stylish” vision with a well-dressed character in a chic and clean bar. The first thing to do is to take REFERENCES! I insist, references for everything you will need in your scene (even the most talented artist still needs references, even if he doesn’t need as much as I do). I want to talk here about “time saving”: having what you need for modeling in front of you (if possible) will allow you to avoid wasting time looking for the perfect shape or fumbling around with the blurred vision you have in your mind.)

So a crow in a bar, ok, but the tool “crowbar” didn’t quite fit with the first “stylish” idea. So, I changed my mind for a darker version and I finally kept the idea of a threatening character, showing the exit to a trouble maker, or else…

Production:

Once the project was less of a blur in my mind thanks to a folder full of references, it was time to model with Maya. I started with the bar, which is in 2 parts: the furniture part (counter, shelf, barstool) and the props (bottles, glasses, etc.). I always try to optimize my workflow the best I can but it’s hard to get out of your comfort zone. Usually, the standard workflow requires you to make a basemesh that is used to create the highpoly and then make a retopology for the lowpoly. If I perfectly have the shape of the object in mind, I try to optimize my basemesh into a lowpoly directly (no need for retopology) with the uv unwrap. In the end, I have a lowpoly group, a crease group containing the duplicated lowpoly but with the crease edges for the highpoly, and finally the highpoly group. I also have a lowpoly and highpoly group in an exploded view. I use ZBrush to finish the details.

I proceeded in the same way for the crow character except that there was a form research milestone with ZBrush before the basemesh creation and a rig that I made for the posing.

Once the modeling was done, the next stage was baking in marmoset toolbag. The basic maps I usually use are normal, bent normal (object), curvature, position, Ambient Occlusion, ID. For these maps I used my exploded objects at first, and then I made another occlusion map but this time I used the unexploded objects. (This step is useless with the “bake group” in marmoset that can handle baking objects separately). I assembled the 2 maps of AO at my convenience, corrected the baking errors with Photoshop and I sent it all in substance painter where I used mainly materials and smart masks. Then I exported the substance PBR maps and opened Photoshop again to create the stylized texture (with maps information and blending modes), alphas, emissive, and modify the roughness and metalness if necessary (i.e. spilled liquids).

Usually in Photoshop, I use a method found on cubebrush that consist to have the AO layer at the bottom, a grey layer at 50% opacity and multiply as blending modes above (to “normalize” a little the AO) , the curvature map in overlay above , next I put the gradient map / albedo map in overlay (or softlight, hardlight, … it depends), the bent map in multiply at 40% opacity, and finally the position map in soft light at 50% opacity on top of that. To recap, it look like this:

Position map softlight* 50% opacity*

Bent map multiply* 40% opacity*

Gradients maps or albedo softlight* or else 100% opacity

Curvature map overlay 100% opacity

Grey layer multiply 50% opacity

Ambient occlusion normal 100% opacity

Most of the time, I reinforce the curvature map with the green and red layer from the normal map (method I found from the environment artist Sylvain Bouland). I apply a emboss filter at -90° to the green layer and a 0° to the red layer then I put the green layer in overlay blending mode and merge the two layers in one. And of course I use the Material ID map to create my masks or have quick selections.

*Of course, it’s just a basic plan which needs adjustments according to the project.

Next I checked if it worked well in marmoset and before sending everything onto Sketchfab, I optimized the maps resolution and file size.

Post-production:

On Sketchfab, I use everything I can to reinforce the mood by tweaking lights and environment, the effects such as SSAO, DOF, sharpness, vignetting, the bloom for emissive maps, and finally the tone mapping which can boost or neutralize the contrast and saturation for example.

Why?

Sketchfab is a great way to show off your work, whether it is for the work’s research or just for fun. The community is great and must continue supporting beginners and share knowledge. I definitely don’t regret integrating Sketchfab as a milestone of my workflow process: I will say it again – and I think I speak for a lot of us here – a simple like or comment of encouragement can go a long way, so keep going guys! I would like to end this by thanking all the Sketchfab team, my followers and those who liked my projects – Thank you!

Email / Site /Artstation

About the author

Geoffrey Boulling

3D artist


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