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This is techno-sorcery!
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Ilya Danilov shared the details behind his remake of Half-Life Python Revolver with sci-fi elements created with Fusion 360, ZBrush, Moi3D, Substance Painter, and Marmoset Toolbag. The project was created within the Half-Life Challenge.
My name is Ilya Danilov, and I am a 3D artist based in a quiet town near Moscow. I currently work as a freelancer for games and movies.
Initially, I wasn’t going to tie up my life with 3D. While I was studying at an art academy, students got a choice to do their projects in either a traditional medium (such as drawing), or in a digital medium. In the second case, you would have more flexibility to change and alter your work, – and I chose it.
Later on, I saw more opportunities to make my ideas come true, such as in the area of 3D printing. Then finally I came across Vadim Bachlychev’s work N0X-2292. I was so impressed that I decided to try working in this industry.
The Half-Life Challenge was a big deal to me because of the opportunity to learn something new from people I haven’t worked with before. While working on this project, we tried to help each other by giving feedback and sharing our knowledge from previous experiences, ultimately to help each other improve and make each work better.
Another reason I was very eager to work on this project was my anticipation of Half-Life 3. When I got the invitation to participate in the challenge, I didnít even think of saying no because I wanted to showcase how things could look if a chapter of HL was made today.
I decided to make a modern gun that was also almost sci-fi because I liked the combination of aliens and older technologies in Half-Life 2. I wanted to reflect that spirit.
I made the ref board separated into a few groups such as texture/mechanicals/design references. I recommend finding pictures with old examples of whatever you want to make, even if you don’t plan on making it look that way. Older guns have clear marks of wear and tear and with it, you will have the illustrated knowledge of how and where it wears out.
I selected several revolvers and found side views to make a collage and get a better understanding of what I had to do. After some paint-overs, I got the base shape and switched over to Fusion 360.
First Steps in Modeling
The most difficult part of the project was adapting to a new pipeline because I had little experience working with CAD. Alex Khaliman who was also previously interviewed by 80.lv offered an insight into Fusion 360. The software solution allowed me to pay less attention to topology and more on design.
First of all, I added the 2D concept into F360 as a template and made the basic shape over that. Also, understanding how it could be made by real machines and tools was useful for planning out the work stages.
Having the model done, I sent it to Moi3D because of its abilities to adjust the density of a mesh part according to its size relative to the other parts.
To make the details I watched videos with tags like “revolver cleaning”, “gun washing”, and “pistol disassembly” on YouTube, searched for photo references with the same keywords, and played around in World of Guns which is a useful program with a wide range of examples where you can see how guns work and are assembled.
When you know and understand how things function and how the mechanics work, you can change or replace the shapes in the way you want.
The decision to make a laser button came from a desire to emphasize the technology of the gun. Despite my standard approach, I hadn’t thought about the use and integration of it enough before I made it besides thinking about the laser’s color, power, and type.
It was the most controversial issue. I took a risk having it, and I was very glad people enjoyed this detail.
During the creation of materials, I divide the surface into separate parts like the basic matt, rust dots, dirt, and scratches. It lets me plan further when I come to Substance Painter and choose the best course of action.
Adding details layer by layer, I have a Marmoset Toolbag scene open to see the current changes in a real-time rendering environment since the same materials can look different based on lighting conditions. This approach is used by a huge number of my acquaintances.
For the glow effect, I placed light sources at a great distance from the model. You can reach the same effect by using wider lamps but in this case, you would lose texture details. I like the diversity of glares caused by varying distances and different kinds of lights.
I recommend not using HDR maps because when you have your own custom lights setup, your result comes entirely from your own ideas.
I worked in the commercial industry before, so I’m used to rendering a lot of passes to make every part look as good as possible. For this goal, I isolated the revolver into several focused groups.
After making the common view, I moved onto rendering each part with better light settings.
The main challenge was making the sight. I spent a lot of time trying to make this look well.
I made 5 layers with this design and added a mask with a glow effect to make it look like a hologram.
In the end, I think it all turned out well. As a final takeaway, I advise you to try and participate in art challenges with your friends and colleagues. It gives you the opportunity to learn and share your knowledge and experience with others. Also with these kinds of projects, you can work at your own pace and give yourself more time if needed to reach a better result.
Hope these tips can be useful for you, guys.