Hello everyone! I thought I would share my a quick tutorial, based off of the demonstration given at this year's Siggraph. I was honored to be invited by the Pixologic team to demonstrate my construction of this character for their latest version of ZBrush, 4r4. Ahead you will find some images, videos, and a lot of words talking about how I do stuff. Enjoy!
Using Layers To Push The Concept
I first started with a general shape, as seen in the top left. I was kind of happy with it, but thought it would be smart to explore the body type a bit. To do this I made a new Layer in ZBrush, and stretched some things around. I then created a second Layer, distorted it in a different way from the original shape. Once I had the two layers, I played with their strength settings at the same time to come up with drastic differences. You can use this technique to a really extreme effect, and come up with wild stuff. However in this case I already knew what I wanted, so I didn't stray very far.
Sculpting with Layers
Once the body was decided, I went ahead and began concepting the head dome of the biosuit. I was playing with how it would open and what its shape would look like both open and closed. It was really important to figure out how it would be closed, because all of the mechanical parts to the helmet would be resting on this area.
Again, with Layers I was able to have to "poses" for the character. One open and one closed. I would sculpt it open first, with Dynamesh. Once I was happy with the look of it being open, I would turn Dynamesh off and create a new Layer. With the new Layer recording, I would gradually move and rotate the flower peddle shapes into place, closing the dome.
Mechanical Dynamesh and Curves
Videos demonstrating the process -
The base of the mechanical head piece is designed, with cavities for some kind of engine or details to be inserted.
Insert Multi Mesh -
I began by creating some cylinders and plugs in another Tool. I would sculpting the with Radial Symmetry and Dynamesh, trying to keep their topology economical while still defining the shapes at the same time. Each plug was a separate subtool in the new Tool I created specifically for plug concepting. When I was done making a small handful of them, I used Unify in the Deformation submenu of the Tool menu to center each one in 3d space. I then created a new Insert Multi Mesh Brush to be used all over the character. By just drawing one plug out in a variety of ways, I was able to achieve a lot of different looks with a limited amount of brushes.
Designing an engine -
To begin blocking in the design of the detail, I started by adding those plugs with the new IMM Brush. This gave me landmarks to then draw tubes with the Curve Tube Snap. Not thinking too much on how things would work, or why, and just playing with the shapes and flow. Remembering where the visual rest is intended to be, and where the detail should be sitting. These are things thought about at the earlier stage, when blocking in the core of the mechanical shape to begin with. Think of it like designing a car from the outside with the hood open. That is essentially what I did for this piece. Then I just started with placing the bigger plugs, working my way to the smaller objects.
Adding Technical Elements
This was the most challenging part for me. It wouldn't have been possible without 4r4, or I should say, it would have been a lot harder. The tentacles were done almost entirely with Insert Mesh Curves, to draw out the tubes, and then draw tubes on top of tubes. The rubber wrappings were done also with Curve Tube Snap, but with a lower Z intensity to make them flat. I then used Move Topological Brush and Snake Hook to form them better to the wires and tubes underneath, and began sculpting the form out to resemble thick rubber. The plugs at the end were the same plugs used on the head piece, but scaled in when drawn onto the end of the tubes to create a different look.
Render Previz / Style Guide
Heavy Photoshop work done for this image. But before I painted over it, I made sure I had some decent lights and materials applied to the model so I had a lot to work with in Photoshop. This was done to test out what my final images would look like, and what the paint job would be for this character. This was actually done early on in the development process, and used as a style guide throughout the pipeline.
Creating the Pilot, and Polypaint
This was a fun part I was looking forward too. Designing a small one part body character alien. This little guy is the brains behind the entire suit, much like the movie Independence Day. Early versions had him looking like a crab or a bug, and I wanted him to look more like a fragile infant. Something that no longer uses its eyes, is very pale, and think skinned. Those ideas ended up later driving the polypaint and color scheme of the character.
And here is the final result.
Siggraph 2012 Demo