In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hi! My name is Gabriel de Laubier or Elbriga here on Sketchfab, I’m working as a freelance digital designer and 3D artist. I’m also making voxel illustrations for Première, a bimonthly cinema magazine here in France. “Ma scène culte” is a double page illustration of a cult movie scene, commented by the director of the movie. After seeing voxel art on Sketchfab, Première had the idea of a printed illustration in Voxels that would also be published online through Sketchfab, and they reached out to me. Here is my process!
Research and Outline
For the very first issue of “Ma scène culte”, Première chose to interview director Jean-Jacques Annaud about the love scene in the movie The Name of the Rose. I had to begin the illustration before the final interview, luckily we were given copies of the original annotated script, storyboard, and some notes on who was on set, the number of cameras, etc.
The first step is watching the scene, again and again, taking notes and trying to map the set, place the camera operators, light sources, props, and finding the right moment in time that would represent the whole scene and be as expressive as possible. Planning is very important, because the scene has to be readable through very little detail.
Building the Assets
Once I have a satisfactory map and a good idea of what’s needed for the scene, I make the individual assets and characters in MagicaVoxel, the wonderful voxel software by @ephtracy.
The scale is based on the characters: I always choose a 3×3 cube for the head, and the rest of the scene adapts to that. At the same time, I build a rough template for the scene to make sure that every asset has its place.
Building the Scene
The main assets being done, it’s time to work on the scene as a whole. I paint textures to the walls, the floor, I add characters and assets, test the lighting and camera angles to make sure that readability is preserved. Since the interview is organised in 5 or 6 focus points, I also have to make sure we can evenly spread them in the scene. The illustration is a double page, so I also have to keep in mind that the central area won’t be easily readable. The points of interest have to be scattered on the left and right side.
Lighting and Baking
Once the scene is done and validated, I export it in .obj into blender for lighting, rendering the final illustration, and ultimately, baking a Sketchfab-ready 3D model. For this scene, I chose to use a HDR at .15 strength just to add a realistic light variation, and a combination of sun, point and spotlights for the main lighting. I use a simple diffuse shader for the materials.
The idea is to recreate a very warm lighting on the left for the lover’s scene by the fire, while the rest of the kitchen is lit by moonlight in a more blueish tone and sharp shadows.
Importing to Sketchfab
Importing the scene into Sketchfab is very straight forward. I decimate and re-unwrap the assets, and bake the lighting. Blender’s decimate modifier and baking tools do wonders. Baking is definitely the more tedious part of the whole process for this scene, but also worth it to have the lighting exactly how I want it, and optimized even for mobile devices.
Here, the scene before decimation and baking (20.000 verts) and after (8.000 verts).
Once I have a baked scene with a reasonable polycount, it’s just a matter of importing into Sketchfab with shadeless rendering and a low FOV. I try to keep post processing simple, sometimes a slight amount of bloom and color correction.
This project is super exciting, because it’s a perfect example of what digital media can bring to paper publications. I love the fact that you can see an illustration in your favorite magazine and have a 3D version ready at your fingertips. And that’s all thanks to Sketchfab! It would never be possible without a platform as lightweight and intuitive.
I can only hope this kind of hybrid media will grow, and I bet the future holds exciting things.
And there it is! If you like this scene, keep in mind that there will be a new one every two months! If you are in France you can also purchase the magazine in any news stand.
Thank you for reading!
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