Art Spotlight: The Innocent King

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About Me

I’m Gabriel Casamasso, 3D Generalist, Brazilian.

I remember, when I was younger, using those science school books with some cool illustrated animals, and I was always observing and discovering new animals. But there were some animals in particular that intrigued me most… The ones made by “mysterious silhouettes”… the dinosaurs!

About 4 years ago, I met 3D Art in a Game Dev course. I had no idea that I would be passionate about it.

After two years of hard work, studying a lot of different 3D processes, I wasn’t just into modeling and texturing anymore, now I was dealing with rigs, animation, and renders. I never knew that these processes are usually done by different persons. Slowly, I was choosing the path of 3D Generalist.

I was invited to work in QUARTOMUNDO studio, that is developing a game called The Light of the Darkness, where I was responsible for doing the 3D feathered wings of the main character Sephius (Modeling, Texturing and Rigging), and also did some secondary character animation.

When working at QUARTOMUNDO, I got a lot of experience with great artists, and the training that I received from the studio’s Art Director/3D Generalist Fernando Rabello was amazing.

Today, I work as a 3D Generalist, doing paleontological reconstructions and animal anatomy as well, but dinosaurs are still my favorites.

The beauty of dealing with dinosaurs is that no matter how many different interpretations we can have for the same animal, they will ever have the “mysterious silhouette” thing that makes us curious to discover more about the biggest creatures that once ruled the Earth. This makes dinosaurs a legend that each one of us see in a unique way.

Tyrannosaurus rex Embryo

This one I took as a challenge for myself. Usually when creating models that are as detailed as Carnotaurus, that include features in the rig to “automate” things up in animation, it takes a lot of time to conclude the project. Carnotaurus took exactly 39h to do from scratch. So I got myself thinking: “Would it be possible, if I try creating something in 10h with the same process, to still be satisfied with the result?”. Well, I knew that if I chose an adult T-rex it would require a lot more attention since muscles, wrinkles and other details like this are much more predominant in full grown animals. So the idea of making an embryo came to my head, and it was great because we don’t see as many dino eggs around the internet as we see adult dinosaurs.

Creating the embryo

My pipeline involves mainly ZBrush, Substance Painter and Cinema4D/Blender (it can also include Photoshop and AfterEffects).

Before anything, I did some great research about how the dinosaur fit in the egg realistically, and this was done using birds as reference since we all know that birds are the living dinosaurs.

I started with the egg. The largest side of the egg is where the head of the animal is located, and the smallest part of the egg is where the tail is located (remembering that in dinosaur eggs, the difference between sides is very subtle since the shape is more similar to a cylinder than to the chicken egg).

A good option when dealing with eggs, is that in the inside part of the egg, we have the placenta, a thin membrane that covers the embryo. What I did was duplicate the egg shell and scale it down and also making it thinner; this way I could have two different materials: one for the shell and one for the placenta.

After I had the simple shape of the egg, I could start using ZSphere to sketch the possible pose of the embryo inside the egg. This required some attention, since the only way of posing the embryo inside the egg would require removing the symmetry of the embryo’s pose, and I didn’t want this just yet, so I just dealt with the side view and simply posed the embryo’s Zspheres to fit the egg.

There is some discussion about whether young T-rex had feathers or not, since I was looking for a 10h project, I chose the featherless path.

Newborn animals, or even developed embryos, tend to have wrinkles, but no defined muscles. Emphasizing the rib cage is a good way of adding visual interest when thinking that its breath will later be animated.

Texturing

After doing the retopology, I projected the new mesh onto the very detailed mesh and baked Normal and Displacement maps.

Now I headed to Substance painter and started giving colors to the embryo with a PBR setup. A good note is that I’ve imported Displacement as Height, and Normal as Normal in Substance Painter, so I retained previous details from our ZBrush sculpture.

Video of the Speed Paint of the Model:

After this process, I had my final cage like this:

Rigging

I started adding some joints to create the base skeleton, and then created spline controllers to link with each limb’s IK target (arms, legs, head and tail). Since I’ve mentioned I would like to have it breathing, I added 2 bones for each nostril and 3 for the ribcage, as well 1 bone for each loop around each eyelid. This way I could set target position for the bones and make them controllable without having to pose them every time (PSR Slider Morph in Cinema4D).

Skinning is a hard process to do correctly, and attention is needed since a single mistake could ruin the entire weight paint (I start with the automatic weight paint, and then I start refining).

Now is the time when I removed the symmetry of the embryo and posed it to fit the egg correctly. Before this, however, I made sure the rig was finished.

After the rig and animation were concluded, I started playing with Boolean modifier to make the egg “open” to show the actual animated animal inside it.

Video of the working rig:

Rendering (Arnold Render)

By using the textures I got, I started creating my materials, making sure to use the subsurface scattering, which is one of the best cards here, and tested them with a good lighting setup. I started with two back lights from each side of the egg, with a soft frontal angular quadlight. You can use a plane to work as ground bouncer as well, you would just have to make sure that the strong backlights are set to not bounce off the ground, otherwise everything would become too bright.

Sketchfab Render

Here is the final step. Recreating my scene in realtime, trying to match the Arnold Render result.

Since I used a PBR setup in Substance Painter, I moved on to the Sketchfab editor, simply imported one FBX of the embryo and set up the materials following my PBR pipeline.

Because I made two materials for the egg, one for the shell and one for the placenta, it meant that I could have two different subsurfaces on Sketchfab, and this is where I could fake light getting through the egg, making it look reddish.

Instead of using strong ambient occlusion maps, I prefer using the SSAO Sketchfab filter since it does a great job. Of course, using the Depth of Field is also an excellent option.

Sketchfab is a great way of displaying real-time models since the render is very powerful and easy to deal with.

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About the author

Gabriel Casamasso

3D Generalist / Paleontological reconstruction and Animal anatomy


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