Round-up, September 2016

The last few months have been some crazy ones (and where did 2016 go, btw?!), but I’ve been getting some positive results and making some good progress, overall. As I try to drill down into photography, propmaking and 3D work (all three? Yes, all three. I know, I’m insane), I’m taking a moment to look back over the last few months and see where things are going!

First up, the last of the BR85 project!

BR85HB-SR Battle Rifle

UNSC finish
UNSC finish

I finally finished up this project and shipped out the last two by about May or so, pushing the entire project to nearly two years!

UNSC finish illuminated
UNSC finish illuminated

I made the Sgt. Johnson hat to do the shoot that I’d originally envisioned for the project, which ended up going according to plan, I just need to do the CG environment work for it to get it complete. That should be happening in the next few weeks, based around Quixel Megascans.

GameStop exclusive arctic camo finish
GameStop exclusive arctic camo finish

While it took a really long time, and barely covered its own expenses whilst paying me next to nothing for all those months (with plenty of 14 hour days!) of work, it was an incredibly educational (mostly along the lines of “charge quadruple what you think you need to, and allow yourself twice as much time as you think you’ll need”) and rewarding experience- not to mention, paid for some of my new and fancy toys that make some of my upcoming projects possible!

GameStop Exclusive arctic camo finish illuminated
GameStop Exclusive arctic camo finish illuminated

Obviously, at this point, I’m not happy with the actual results of the project- I see all the problems and inaccuracies and poor technique borne of the simple fact that this was my first project and I was going in fairly blind, and much of it was done early on with far less tooling than I have now. On the other hand, these two finished objects solidified me as a person-who-can-make-things and a-person-other-people-will-give-money-to (to make things), so as far as they were the intended goals- and they mostly were- the project was a success!

CG Environment

Once that was done, I needed to do some more 3D work and finally finish another year-plus project; a shoot that I did on New Year’s Eve 2014!

Ryan came to me with the idea for the shoot, but that no one he’d approached so far had been capable of fulfilling his idea. I’d been interested in the concept of “VFX photography” for a while, so I had a fully-formed vision in my head almost immediately.

Original studio live plate
Original studio live plate

This was, considering my relative lack of 3D practice at the time, an enormous undertaking. Fortunately, while I’d been finishing off the BR85s, I’d also started doing a bunch of quick little 3D models and scenes like this one:

Sculpted tree and bronzes, particle grass and branches/leaves
Sculpted tree and bronzes, particle grass and branches/leaves

Since I was iterating through them so fast, working on each one no more than a few hours (not all of them made it to Instagram- failure is always an option!), when it came to getting back on the environment project (which only saw about two weeks of modelling work in the entirety of 2015), I was a little more practiced and faster, especially with textures and materials, so it came together in just a few weeks of on-and-off work.

Off-duty Miles Morales?
Off-duty Miles Morales?

This was actually built from a screenshot I took in GTA 4, which I decided for whatever reason was the ideal platform to get a base of my choosing to build out. Why not Google Earth? No idea!

GTA 4 flyover screenshot
GTA 4 flyover screenshot

I just had to build it out in much higher detail. I still didn’t quite achieve what I would call photorealism, but fortunately the motion blur rescued me there. Definitely something I need to work on in future.

Base render after blur but no other processing.
Base render after blur but no other processing.

You can see these images larger here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/nDk1r

On a commercial project, based on the total time it took to model and render (not to mention the price of the machine I had to build to be able to render it! Fortunately I needed an upgrade anyway, or I’d have used a render farm) it would have been just as cost-effective- and far quicker- to hire a helicopter flight and shoot some live background plates instead. I’m looking to use proceduralism (Houdini) and photo scans (Megascans) to get around that in future. Future updates will tell how that goes!

I spent a couple of weeks working on ideas, moving my office around, figuring out the studio space, practicing some drawing, nothing in particular but lots of stuff that had needed doing for a while. Then came along Serge!

A Shoot! (Finally?!)

Considering photography- other than product images- had basically been on the back burner since mid-2014, Serge Martinenko getting in touch and looking to shoot while he blew threw town from LA for a few days was a little bit of a surprise! Obviously putting it off would have been a terrible idea, so even though I wasn’t “ready” to shoot, I jumped in and worked out some ideas whilst frantically clearing out the remainder of the studio!

Since I still have a headshot book that needs filling, that was obviously my first idea.

Boom. Headshot.
Boom. Headshot.

Then I was browsing around Google Images, as I do, trying to find ideas I liked for someone with Serge’s physique. At some point, I came across an Ancient Greek bronze called “The Boxer” (it has several variations on the name), which I liked a lot. So I decided I’d build a rustic ladder (the type that goes with a nice painted backdrop) to use instead of the rock in the sculpture, and it’d be all nice and Liebowitz-esque.

Quick ladder build from stuff I grabbed at Home Depot.
Quick ladder build from stuff I grabbed at Home Depot.

Unfortunately I ran out of time, so the all-important weathering couldn’t be done. I also didn’t drag out a painted backdrop and just shot on seamless, so we’ll see how well they turn out when I eventually get time to edit and process.

Meanwhile, it turned out that Serge wanted for his portfolio the exact type of image I love to shoot, so that was fun. I dragged out some weights, popped the grid on the beauty dish, and had at it.

Delicious three-point lighting
Delicious three-point lighting

There may be more, I haven’t really gone through too much of the shoot yet, I tend to like to spread it out over time for more emotional separation in editing and better results.

Currently…

Now I’m back to work down in the shop! Building workbenches and storage, reorganising everything, trying to create a more inviting and usable space, and start preparing it for streaming, which is something I’d like to have done once or twice on upcoming projects by the end of the year.

New bench 1/2!
New bench 1/2!

That’s it for now. Upcoming stuff? The Star Wars NN-14 Rey Gun, some more CGI environment images, probably some more shoots of various types, and a couple more BR85 build videos. Exciting stuff! If you want reasonably timely updates, the best places to keep up are my Twitter and Instagram that you see over to the side there. Otherwise, you’ll see ’em as you see ’em. Here’s to a ludicrously busy end of 2016 and successful 2017!

~Rob

Leave a Reply