INTERVIEW WITH DAVID AUCOURT, “BATMAN BARBARIAN CHARACTER MODEL”
We spoke to character Artist David Aucourt, who worked as lead character artist at TAT Productions in Toulouse France. Before that he studied 3D at the Bellecour Art School in Lyon, as well as completing the Character Program at the CG Master Academy (you can even see his work on their homepage!). His high res characters are inspired by artists like Alessandro Baldasseroni and Bruno Camara, and their aspects of 3d character creation.
Your “Barbarian Batman” character is based on a concept by Karl Kopinski, how closely did you stick to the original idea? How do you think this concept translated from 2D to 3D?
I tried to stick as much as I could to the concept, but as it’s a rough sketch so there were some parts that I had to improvise, taking as much reference as possible. It’s really a fun part because you have to think on top of the concept, adding and not just following something one to one. Initially, I tried to do the same pose as the concept but it really looked stiff in 3D. There is a lot of dynamism in the lines of a sketch that is really hard to translate in 3D, that’s why I decided to do my own pose.
What is your general pipeline for a character of this quality?
I usually start with a rough blockout in ZBrush, and at this stage I’m focusing on the silhouette of the character. Then, I refine the shape of each piece starting with the head which is often an area of focus. I sometimes try displacement export and/or quick texturing to ensure that the sculpt will be sufficient. When I’m ok with the shape I move on to cleaning the meshes (ZRemesher/retopo) and UVs. After that I can start texturing/look dev in Substance Painter and VRay. At this step I’m trying many different lighting settups to see if the shaders are reacting nicely and also to find out what will fit the best for final presentation. For the rigging part, I usually give my models to friends who want to rig them. If not I use Transpose Master which is great too but less easy to experiment with different posing, especially with very dynamic stances. For the final render I export multiple passes from VRay and do my compositing in Photoshop.
Tell me about your 3DS Max to Zbrush workflow, do you prefer to sculpt
and retopologize or build proper base meshes initially?
As I’m starting with ZBrush for the rough sketch I tend to do all I can in ZBrush
before moving to 3Ds Max. I really have no rules here but I tend to try the quick and dirty way before going to a more polished and time consuming workflow. Most of the times a ZRemesher is good enough, sometimes it’s simpler to start with poly modeling in 3Ds Max for hard surface stuff.
What was the texturing process for this character? Which software do you use and why?
For this character I wanted to push my knowledge of Substance Painter and
procedural texturing. I really found it awesome for that point. Instead of doing each part manually I could drop a smart material from an object to the other with minimal hand painting. If you spend enough time making the smart material react well with all types of shapes you just save so much time, and it can also make the shaders consistent between different objects. I usually start with some premade smart materials and tweak them a lot. For example, I started with some basic leather smart material, replace the normal map with a scan from surface mimic, and then add multiple dirt materials on top of it. I found this very intuitive and artist friendly, as all you have to do is to concentrate on the art.
To continue on the last question, what is your process for creating a realistic face for this character? How do you achieve realistic skin textures?
The first step for creating a realistic face is to gather references, I often try to pick more than one to mix the facial features I want. I then start with an existing
basemesh that I push and pull in ZBrush to match my references. For detailing, I
sculpt the main wrinkles and then use textures and alphas for high frequency details. For this project I wanted to try Texturing XYZ maps for the face sculpt,
which are great if you don’t want to spend days sculpting pores and wrinkles. As I was going for a realistic texturing it was the best choice for me. For the color map, I used unpolarized photos that I projected in Mudbox to avoid the definition loss you have in zbrush while polypainting. I finally setup the skin shader which is a VRayFastSSS2 blended with 2 layers of reflection. I then add multiple dirt passes and micro hair to break up the surface.
How did you create the fur pelts & hair for this character? Did this significantly affect render times in Vray?
The hair and fur was done with Ornatrix. I really like its versatility, using the power of the modifier stack of 3Ds Max. As soon as you understood the basics you can do wonders with it. Basically you have 3 levels of control, the first is polygon scalp where the hair is growing, then you have the guides which are splines associated to the polygon scalp and then the rendered hair. At each levels you can add modifiers to your needs, making it a near procedural tool as you still have to brush the main guides manually. For the render times, it actually wasn’t the most costly thing in the character. It ended up being the skin shader associated to displacement.
How do you think the different forms of lighting in your renders affects the look of this character?
Lighting is one of the most important aspect of CG, if you don’t put enough time into it, you just minimize the impact of the character or environment. I experimented many different lighting settups for this character. What I finally choose was to make a cold lighting sticking more into the Batman universe and also a lighting that makes the texture and shading stand out. I could have done something more dark and high contrast to be even more like a shot in a Batman movie, but the point for me here was to first show the model.
What has been the most difficult part of creating this character? What have you learned from this process?
The most difficult part was making a realistic head. It’s always a challenge because if any part of it is slightly off, the whole head won’t work. What I’ve learned from this it is to never give up, if something isn’t working just go back and fix it. Also, make iterations and get feedback from friends or coworkers.
Do you have any advice for young people looking to get into the 3D industry?
If I had one advice it would be to always continue experimenting and learning. All the time you spend on your personal work will bring you to the place you want, it’s just a matter of time, patience and dedication.
For more cool stuff by David, check out his artstation here !!!