The Summer session of Digital Figure Sculpture starts on July 5th. This course covers the critical foundation necessary to build naturalistic figures in ZBrush, including all the tools and techniques that I use day-to-day in my own figure sculpting – both on my art projects and on feature film characters.
Over ten weeks artists get a chance to hone their skills by completing numerous weekly figure studies and one detailed full-figure study. The course reinforces the importance of anatomy as the critical foundation for building realistic figures and shows practical construction techniques for applying this knowledge to figure sculpture. The goal is for every artist on the course to increase the realism and naturalism of their figurative work in ZBrush.
Here is a work-in-progress image from a collaboration with two old colleagues from my days at the MIT Media Lab. They are conceptual designers working on a project to visualize the effects of zero-gravity on human form. The exhibition will have many aspects but my contribution will be two life-sized 3d-printed heads showing the difference in form between a man raised on earth versus a man raised in space. The image above shows the man raised on earth. The next step is to reverse the effects of gravity and UV exposure, and then get these off to the 3d printer. More images coming soon…
OK, it may not be a great movie but there are some decent visual effects in there. The CGChannel website has an article talking about the visual effects behind Wrath of the Titans. I designed and sculpted the three Cyclops in the film and then nurtured them, like giant one-eyed children, through much of the post-production process. My design process is always firmly grounded in the plausibility of the anatomy I am creating and the cycloptic eyes proved an interesting challenge (with mixed success). Below are a couple images of the concept sculptures I create while working up the body types and personalities of the three Cyclops – the aged father and the two brothers.
© Copyright 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
I have been busy over the past months revising and updating Jean-Antoine Houdon’s classic L’Ecorché sculpture for the soon to be released iOS App of the same name. The app is a collaboration between myself and legendary character sculptor Michael Defeo. I will post more on the app, including some behind-the-scenes ‘making of’ videos, soon.
Until then, please check out the app’s Kickstarter project for more information.
The next session of the Digital Figure Sculpture Course is getting ready to start on so I thought I would post this image from the culminating exercise and also talk a little bit more about the philosophy and goals of the course.
Simply, the goal of the course is to teach students how to create more naturalistic figure sculptures. Too often artists struggle to breathe life into their figures and are left scratching their heads as to what went wrong. There are many stages where things can go off track but most often it is inexperience with anatomy, planes, volumes, and proportions. Everyone wants to jump straight in and put muscles onto their sculptures but in their zealousness they forget the critical construction and proportions that hold things together. The course guides artists through the entire process.
The final week of the course covers the tools and techniques used to refine the figure in ZBrush. This lesson concentrates on refining small forms and plane transitions, but emphasizes correct placement and scale relative to larger forms and proportions. Finally, all good sculptures need to be photographed (rendered) and presented well to look their best so there is a culminating lecture on lighting and rendering outside of ZBrush. In this video Scott talks about the fundamentals of lighting and shows his rendering techniques in Maya and also gives a short preview of Luxion’s Keyshot renderer.
This week artists continue their full figure sculptures by sculpting the hands and hair. The techniques for refining the hands are largely a review of the workflows used in Week4′s exercise, but sculpting the hair in ZBrush is an entirely new topic. Sculpting hair is a very difficult thing because it requires a level of artistic abstraction to translate the flowing fibrous forms of hair into a tangible sculptural surface. Because the process is so intangible every artist eventually develops their own style for sculpting hair. This week’s lessons show Scott’s approach to sculpting hair in ZBrush. They cover his tools and techniques for general hair sculpting, how ZSpheres/ZSketch can be used for hair, and also how the new DynaMesh features can be used to create interesting, complex styles. (and yes, the model does have a crazy double ponytail!)
This week students tackle the most difficult task of all – the portrait. Continuing with their posed figures in Zbrush, they learn how to tackle the portrait like a traditional sculptor would: establishing the relationship between critical landmarks on the skull, constructing the features, establishing the profile, and refining the planes. This week’s lectures cover the critical aspects of facial anatomy and portraiture and then give an extensive ZBrush walk-through of Scott sculpting the example figure above. The unabridged session shows every stroke that is need to take the face from start to finish.
This second week of the full-figure exercise is spent in ZBrush blocking in the anatomy for the entire figure, refining the pose, and blocking in a starting portrait. Collectively this is an big task, but students are helped by the experience gained from the previous five weeks of fragment studies. The full-figure sculpture really is a way to consolidate the knowledge of form and anatomy gained from these studies into one final piece.
After a week-long mid-term break, artists are starting their final five-week full-figure sculptures. They begin by proportioning a simple base mesh to match the life model. These proportions are based on a set of measurements taken from the model using calipers, the way a traditional sculptor would approach setting up his armature. Once the proportions are established, we cover how to build a ZSphere rig, a powerful but underused technique in ZBrush for posing a model. From here artists get to choose one of three poses for their final figure sculpture and they use their ZSphere rigs to pose their mesh. The challenge in this early stage of the full-figure sculpture is to establish to correct weight, balance, and gesture on the figure, a task easier said than done.
This week artist explore the forms of the legs. Using reference from a male ballet dancer they build a leg fragment in ZBrush and refine it in a standing position – paying attention to the large masses of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and adductor muscles, and then the bony and tendinous structure of the knee. From here they transpose the knee 90 degrees and re-examine the forms of the leg, paying special attention to the stretching and contraction of opposing muscles groups and the changes in the bony structure of the knee. Lastly, they have fun with Zbrush’s DynaMesh feature and chop their leg sculptures into three pieces, whittling down the middle third into the exposed bones of the knee. The goal is give artists a deep understanding of the construction of the knee, one of the hardest joints of the body to understand and depict successfully.
In addition to two hours of video showing Scott executing the exercises above, this week includes Tools & Techniques videos on using ZBrush’s Morph Targets and also how Scott uses PolyPainting to maintain consistency in landmarks and muscle flow when posing a figure.
In Week 4 artists investigate the hands in-depth. Hands are one of the most difficult parts of the body to sculpt and demand the utmost attention to construction, proportions, form, and gesture to do successfully. They are second only to the face in expressiveness so we spend the entire week doing a single detailed study of the hands in Zbrush. The lessons learned here will be important to transfer to the full-figure sculptures started in week 6. After a lecture covering the anatomy and proportions of the hands, artists sculpt using the best reference available – their own hands. This week also includes lectures on making hands using Zbrush’s flexible and quite useful ZSpheres and reading assignments from George Bridgman and Andrew Loomis.
As many of you already know, the second session of my online Digital Figure Sculpture course is underway. A group of artists are hard at work learning new techniques in ZBrush and studying hard to make great progress as figure sculptors. To give everybody a taste of the types of projects they are working on week-to-week, I have started a blog where I will post updates as the course progresses. If you have an interest in ZBrush and figure sculpture, check it out.
This week artists refine their knowledge of the forms of the upper arm and the forearms. In Zbrush, they start with ZSpheres and build a shoulder “fragment” that is cutoff mid-chest. From here they sculpt the forms of the arm flexed to 90 degrees with the hand supinated (palm-up). Once this sculpture is complete they transpose the forearm from supinated to pronated and adjust the forms and flows of the muscles accordingly (paying special attention to the new alignment of the flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm). One final transpose extends the arm at the elbow, and all the forms of the upper arm – biceps, triceps, brachialis, are modified.
In the second week we continue with the torso, but now focusing on the articulation of the shoulder as the arm is raised. We do a comprehensive investigation of what is known as the “scapulo-humeral rhythm” – the ratio of scapular rotation to arm elevation. Students sculpt a torso with the arms at the side and them modify the sculpture moving the arms through 45, 90, 135, and 180 degrees of rotation. The 0 and 180 extremes are shown above. In ZBrush artists start with a base mesh and use Transpose and masking to rotate the arm and scapula in the correct ratio. Each pose is stored on a ZBrush layer, and the subdivided mesh is sculpted at high resolution to capture all the subtleties of the muscular forms at different articulations. Students are lead through the exercise by a series of videos showing Scott sculpting the torsos in ZBrush.
During the first week of the Digital Figure Sculpture course students concentrate on sculpting one male and one female torso. They work on the torso in isolation in order to focus on the task at hand, without distraction from unfinished areas like arms, hands, and heads. The torsos are created using ZSpheres as a base and then refined using Zbrush’s new DynaMesh feature. There are short technical how-to videos that explain the new features of Zbrush and then a comprehensive Working Example showing Scott creating the torso above from start to finish.
Here are a couple images of a digital sculpture that I did for a ‘recently released pirate movie’. At the time the film was in early preproduction and this piece was more speculative design than anything concrete for the film, though it is loosely tied to an event in the script. The piece also has thinly veiled references to Damien Hirst’s infamous pickled shark sculpture. For more details on how I created the sculpture keep reading below.
“A stylish docking station for syncing, charging and display. An evocative blend of ancient fertility symbolism and modern technology worship. I want one!”
The April 2011 issue of German film/VFX magazine Digital Production features a full-page Hephaestus image to introduce their writeup on Zbrush 4. The image is backwards but otherwise looks good. Their article gives a great overview of Zbrush, my digital sculpting tool of choice.
Here are a few images of the sculpture, shown in clay above, which I unveiled during my lecture at the Tate Modern on “Bit to Atoms – The Process and Evolution of Digital Sculpture“. During the lecture I talked about the process of making the piece – first creating a digital maquette in Zbrush to establish the balance, weight, and proportions of the figure, and then using that digital data (shown below) as a guide for constructing the full-sized figure sculpture in clay. Here are a few views of the digital maquette and a timelapse of the clay construction.
click below to view the timelapse construction of the life-sized clay sculpture.
Movie – Timelapse Construction