a surreal exercise

This project was an attempt to break out of my realistic renderings and try something a bit more dreamy and surreal.  I like the artwork of Erik Jones and I thought I’d try something along the lines of the work he’s been doing, mixing color and the human form.

I tried modeling out a bust but had some trouble getting it just right, but was lucky enough to have a colleague willing to provide me with a good digital asset for the project.  Special thanks to Shane King for the bust.

After I had that in my pocket, I started doing some fiddling in ZBrush to create some interesting topography behind the character.  I ported that over to Maya and started moving things around and setting up lighting and texturing for Maxwell Render.  The project seemed doomed until I took the bust over to Mudbox for texturing.  I hadn’t UV’ed the model and was in the process of doing so when the happy accident occurred, where I just started painting directly on the model with my Cintiq in Mudbox.  All kinds of interesting patterns started popping up and I was just kind of horsing around when I added an incandescent layer.  Things got really interesting then.

I ended up taking all of those layers and exporting the material for Maya, then rebuilt the layers as a Maxwell Render material, utilizing the Diffuse, Normal, Displacement, and Specular maps, but also by adding an Emitter layer and mapping the Incandescent map to that, as well as the Opacity map.  What resulted was an interesting effect that I decided to run with.

I then quickly UV’ed the blocks and got them working with some different spotlights, all of which were taking advantage of the new Projection feature in Maxwell Render.  I used Multilight to get the light just so and adjusted it as the render came out, which took something like 90 hours.  I know, I’m insane to let it go that long, but I really wanted to get it crispy and there is A LOT going on here with different lighting, both indirect and direct; the main spotlight providing the majority of depth and specularity really took a long time.  I think I could have sped things up a lot by forgoing the projections, but I liked the depth they added.  That, and it was a bit of a vanity, as the projection used one of my old pieces, Mapping the Stars, as the projection.

After the final render, I took it all over into Nuke, where the real fun began, taking all of those render layers and compositing them together to get the image I really wanted.  I adjusted some of the colors to get more saturation, tried to cut down some of the remaining grain, and really get the piece to pop.  I ended up adding bokeh (my new favorite effect) to give it a bit of focus and a dreamy look, but I included the non-blurred image here as well.

Overall, it was a fun project and I look forward to trying to push the boundaries with Maxwell Render.

project is also over on CG Society here.

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