In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hello there! I’m Athos Kele, the supposedly artistic half of dwCrew Ltd.
I’m introducing my title as “supposedly” mainly because I’m not an artist, I’m a programmer by trade so my journey with 3d modelling is me trying to break free of the perilous curse of (read with a scary voice) “Programmer Art”. I was invited to talk about my model “Mayhem Dressed In A Suit” so naturally my instincts are to write a novel abou… eh I mean I’m going to split this article on two chapters. The modeling part and the staging of the scene and texturing. So..
Chapter 1: Modeling and staging the scene
Modeling is probably going to be the most boring part because as I’ve said, I’m not a professional artist by no means, so no trade secrets here. I start with a basic human model I have made in the past (the one that looked good after a few hundred tries following tutorials that is) and keep adding stuff based on what I have in mind. For “Mayhem Dressed In A Suit” I wanted to make something out of the movie “Heat” with Al Pacino and Deniro, so it was easy since I only had to create the suit and a few accessories to go with it.
I mainly prefer box modeling over sculpting because I find it easier, although it is limited on some areas. After the box modeling stage, I’ll usually duplicate the model and start sculpting little creases and details,this way I avoid doing retopology for the model because I hate it (that means i’m pretty lazy also). So after a few hours with Blender, I came up something that looks like Deniro (Spoiler, it doesn’t even resemble him in his small toe). Note this is the low res version.
Thankfully, he is going to be wearing the hockey mask over his head so nobody will be asking him for autographs! Here’s a picture of the mask.
Now I had to give him something to play with, we couldn’t just send him naked in the field! So I gave him a rifle I’ve made in the past so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time there. I had to decide which weapon to give him so naturally my “expertise” went with a model I made that had proper UVs. So after a few hours of work I came up with something looking like this.
It was nice but there was something I didn’t like, the whole scene felt a little mute. If you’ve seen “Heat” then you know, after seeing the bank robbery scene, how all gunshots must sound! Of course there’s no sound in a 3d model, but if I could just add enough detail then the mind of the viewer will add the missing parts. So naturally I’ve added the muzzle flare and a bullet case ejecting but they still weren’t enough to make the scene dramatic. So what I did was to add more bullet cases and stuff flying around like money! Also, smoke behind the just ejected bullet case, that’s what really sells it! I’ve also added a base to the character to make the whole scene look more grounded, instead of a simple model flying in space. The base helps the viewer place it in an environment even if it’s a pretty naked scene. So in the end the scene looked something like this and I was ready for texturing, but first…
As for the pose I knew I wanted something aggressive and also dramatic so I went up straight to the movie to get references, here’s some pics.
Notice the differences in the stances the characters make. While Val Kilmer’s and Deniro’s stances (left side) are more deterministic, the police units that arrive, including Pacino, feel more “on the go” like they try to catch up on the robbers. Even Pacino with a more determined stance (than his other friends), his slight rotation of his head makes his whole stance ready to move instead of taking careful shots. Without having seeing the movie, just by a few stills you can pick on who has the upper hand here just by looking at the poses the characters have. Even though most of the time the camera shots would actually break the eye line a lot to disorient the viewer, a classic film making technique, but that’s a story for another time…
As for the stuff that flies around, it’s all about capturing movement, so to understand this more, let’s take another film example. Here are two emotional shots from two movies.
Here’s one from Kurosawa’s Rashomon:
And here’s one from the Avengers:
While both movies are trying to convey sad emotions with this shots, Kurosawa’s shot does the better job, simply by not only having his character feel down and distressed, but the whole world around them is multiplying this feeling. From the melancholy the rain gives to the scene, to the towering gate dwarfing the two characters making them feel insignificant. On the other hand, you get the Avenger’s shot where they just add a gloomy background and dark colors to the scene and they straight up have Samuel Jackson start his dialogue. A quote I once heard by Stan Lee and I keep in mind ever since: “If you have to explain your art, then you are not doing a good job”. Of course this cannot be applied directly on a movie (unless you are part of the French movement of film making in the 70s(?), I don’t remember exactly the decade though) so the next big thing is to have an actor explain it through the script. I’m not going to say that’s bad film making but I’m going to say that it’s not noteworthy. Anyhow, all this is involved in my thought process, because I knew I wasn’t going to use this model for any other purpose so I just wanted to make it more, let’s say noteworthy… so adding the details like the bullet cases, more aggressive muzzle flare, smoke from the bullet ejector and money flying around really helped into multiplying the feeling of the scene, chaos, or to use simpler words, the emotion of uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next.
So without further ado…
Chapter 2: Texturing
Now here I just have to thank god that Substance Painter exists! I really sucked at texturing models, like really really sucked so on one of my googling frenzies I stumbled upon Substance Painter and that was it, I tried the trial and a week later I bought it. Can’t recommend it enough!
So after I export the model into a format that plays well with Substance Painter, I import it. Now I wish I had more secrets to give but with SP getting this result (see pic below) is only a matter of minutes. Especially the rifle, that’s just applying one of the default smart materials and that’s it, I didn’t even have to tweak it. Now of course I had to bake AO and Curvature maps but that is taken cared of from inside Substance Painter.
As for the muzzles or smoke, I simply create a new fill layer with an opacity channel all the way down and then on top of that a new paint layer where I paint on the color/emission and opacity channels. Now for smoke you can go with pretty much as much opacity you want.
And the best thing, when you are done with texturing you can export it directly to Sketchfab! Like having your cake and easily sharing it too!
Now of course there’s no such thing as “doing the best you can”, you can always do a little better, so even at any stage you can add more little details. In my case this was the blood around the corner, I didn’t planned it beforehand and while texturing, I thought I should have dropped a few bullet cases on the floor too because it felt as empty space, so in order to fix that (with the fastest way I could, because I’m kinda lazy as I already mentioned) I’ve added the blood on the corner. Later I realised that the blood on the corner, which is kinda cropped and hints that it’s part of a bigger puddle, helped give space to the whole world, instead of just being a model, since it gives the feeling like it’s part of something bigger, like it’s a piece of a puzzle and on this case it’s up to the viewer to decide what’s there, maybe it’s a victim of the robbery, maybe it’s a buddy of the robber, etc. In the end of course, I might just be overthinking everything.
Epilogue: Shameless Plugs!
Now if you want to stalk me or know where to avoid me, here’s some other stuff I do:
- My Sketchfab portfolio.
- I’ve released a game on Steam called Carnivore Land, check it out!
- I also do programming and game development tutorials on YouTube.
- And here’s where you can usually find me on Twitter: @NVicBoss, @dwCrewGames and @AccentTutorials
- Reddit: /UnityTutorialHub