I have always loved the game and film industries since I was a kid. I started my education at Vancouver Institute of Media Arts studying game art and design. After that, I worked on several projects as an environment artist including an indie game for TGA Entertainment, VR experiences at Dream House Studios and a mobile game done by Endgame studios.
Picking the Concept
I wanted to find a concept with a huge emotional attachment to it, plus, it had to express a story in just one frame. When I saw art by Max Ulichney, I got super impressed - his way of managing the color with such vibrant tones and strong contrasts was amazing.
I got super excited to translate one of his works into 3D and also decided to add a few extra details that I liked (for example, dinosaur scales).
Blockout and Rough Sculpting
I once took a Mold3D course that taught me a nice technique for sculpting stylized shapes. This technique consists of positioning an image plane in the background in ZBrush. As this image won't move and you are able to control the model opacity in the options, you can easily sculpt on top of the reference. I prefer this workflow as it appears to be more accurate.
After getting the image planes aligned I started to sculpt the dinosaur. I always start with simple geometric shapes and try to keep the polycount as low as possible (low=manageable).
When I get to the point where the model looks close enough to the result I want to achieve, I do retopo in Maya, In Maya, I also modeled the sheriff badge and the kerchief, then, I returned everything to ZBrush.
Next, I started to model the kid using the same technique described earlier.
The next step was to project the displacement map onto ZBrush sculpt, clean it up, add some details, and overexaggerate some skin holes. From that, I was able to create a displacement for the holes and a normal map that contained the skin scales and micro details.
Once all the displacement maps were projected and cleaned, it was time to put some color on the model. I started with polypaint, then baked the color in Substance Painter. I used Substance for creating and cleaning the normal map, the subsurface scattering, and the diffuse map. The diffuse amount got into the SSS shader in Maya,
I repeated the same process for the kid lowering the amount of displacement on the skin.
Lighting and Lookdev
Lastly, I spent a lot of time trying to get nice lighting - for me, that was the most important aspect of the scene. After I played with the skin of both characters and the lightning, I implemented the rest of the textures in the scene. Finally, volumetrics. I decided to use 2 volumes - one in the background (mostly blue) and one in the foreground with a ramp from a warm color to a cold one. Then, I use Photoshop to give them an exaggerated contrast and a glow effect to the fireflies.