Patrick Razo talked about his massive bikes that mix sci-fi and realistic elements: brand design, workflow, rendering.
Hello, my name is Patrick Razo (also known as nino or ninosboombox), I am a designer based in the Los Angeles area, born and raised in Colorado. I have worked in many fields throughout my career, most notably fashion design (including creating my own brand, design, overseas and domestic production, marketing, creative directing, art directing, brand building), entertainment design, special needs care (experience in behavior and psychology), as well as a ton of other design and labor jobs. These have all played a part in my approach to my current field – entertainment and concept design. One of my most notable projects is Ash Thorp and Anthony Scott Burns’s “Lost Boy” film where I was hired as a costume designer/fabricator, then worked my way into concept art credits. I’ve also worked on a few feature films that are slated for release, I believe, next year. Unfortunately, a lot of my commercial work has not been released yet so I have not shared those works.
I always loved the mechanical design and realized I could concentrate solely on design rather than the art side of things. Due to my career in fashion, I was more of a product designer than going the art direction. The first 3D package I learned was Modo followed by ZBrush. This was about 5 years ago.
The Kukri was based on an older design idea that I sketched back in 2005. When building the Kukri, I didn’t use this as a reference, I just remembered the shape and used that as a base idea. I dug out that image later (it was buried somewhere on an old hard drive) and a massive cringe followed. In any case, the hood and the headlamp cluster were the main things I wanted to bring back from that image.
I have always excelled in the brand building whether in fashion, filmmaking, writing or working in design. I have always built worlds or designs that have a much larger backstory. Being a rider myself, I created my motorcycle brand “BHUMEMOTO” (bhume=boom, the backstory is there, too) and wanted to make this into a long term project. I had designed two Lost Boy style bikes and this time wanted to make the brand more real-worldy and buildable instead of sci-fi. The long term goal is, of course, to actually build one!
Since I wanted to make the brand buildable, I started on the VINEGAROON model with the engine first and built around it, same for the SIAMESE and the KUKRI. I try to make each one of my bikes with an aggressive stance to carry its own personality. For instance, the VINEGAROON has an insect feel to it, a quick buzzing city wasp cruiser (although a vinegaroon is closer to a scorpion), so I gave it a higher ground clearance, like an insect with long legs, double headlights, etc. The SIAMESE has 2 power cores (attached twins) so I wanted to make it longer and bulkier, a bigger package. The KUKRI’s shape is aggressive like the weapon itself (it’s a bent blade knife if you are not familiar with what a kukri is), much more aggressive than a Rambo knife or a switchblade. However, this is more about big shapes not smaller detail.
As for the smaller details, I believe one thing that helps me take on motorcycle design is stepping back not forward. I stay away from the CNC milled or 3D printed look as it can make the model unbelievable in a current real-world situation. You don’t really see this CNC / 3d printed look in the real world, at least not for the big shapes. This can take the viewer a step away from reality. I also stay away from booleans. I use them here and there (manually, pen tooling the vets and for a reason, one being I don’t get locked into “fast and easy” design), but for the most part I want the bikes to look like they could be built by a craftsman, not by a computer-controlled operation. The details are pretty simple and things are placed in appropriate spots. We have all seen hinges, locks, and mechanical trinkets, these details seem “real”. You can find some ZBrush hard-surface models with all these creases and surface details, a ton of them, but it just looks a mess to me. I want my detail to look like it is still structural, not just surface detail.
Building the Bikes
For hard-surface, I primarily use Modo and ZBrush in some instances for certain parts, but Modo is my go-to.
I usually place the engine and wheels into the space, then start placing in the larger shapes and getting those to harmonize with the desired stance. Then, I connect the chassis and shift things around until it starts to fit together and keep chopping away. I tend to work on an area for a bit then move onto a different area so I can get a fresh look as I am moving around. I may stumble upon a pattern or a repeating element that could work in a different area so it can help flesh out a shape or detail theme. For the KUKRI, I had the sketch from 2005 in my mind, but that’s about it. For the VINEGAROON, I had a tank shape in mind, and for the SIAMESE, I had the boxy shape with 70s-80s exotic cars in mind, but I did not have any concept art beforehand. Designing on the fly but with an overall image in mind, I don’t put it down on paper because I like discovering things as I go. This way I stay excited about how it is developing. It also depends on the project – for my mechas, I generally do a very loose thumbnail, and the Lost Boy bike had a loose sketch.
The steering mechanisms are based primarily on hub center steering. I like front forks but love the swing arm aesthetics for these design-forward models. Specifically, on the Kukri, the handlebars slide along tracks, much like tank steering controls rather than rotating forks. This is also reinforced by the handlebars being inverted. On my own bike, I turned and dropped my bars. I like the way it operates so I wanted to see how far I could push this idea.
Rendering & Materials
I render in Keyshot. Keyshot is much more versatile than many may think. On this particular design, I reached out to a buddy, Lee Souder, who was doing some great work with the material graph in Keyshot. I asked him if he could share how he used it. He sent me one of his prop models, I dug into them and figured out how it works. From there, I just experimented until I found something that fit the bike. Big up to Lee. I tend to develop some materials more and others leave as very basic. There’s nothing worse than everything turned up to 100. Contrast can be subtle. Besides the materials, for instance, the handlebars are basically just a bar. The shape is enough for it to be interesting. It does not need to be complicated CNC’d or pushed to 100. This can ground the overall design.
I have a few different paint schemes. That’s the problem with rendering, I can go on forever with variations, so I eventually have to pull the trigger on 1 or 2 schemes. I render a reflection pass and composite it very subtly. It’s not pushed to 100, maybe to 5 or 10, just a bit to make it slightly stronger than an untouched render, then do a slight color or level correction in Photoshop if needed. My sci-fi work has a bit more Photoshop work to communicate the mood. Since it is sci-fi, I do want to take the viewer farther away from reality. As for the bikes, I want to keep them realistic, that is the reason for the post-processing decisions.
I use a lot of textures, but subtly. I am by no means a shader specialist. The light sources are for the most part are from the HDRIs and the subtle reflection pass popped only in certain areas. I occasionally set up a light to make an edge pop, but not too often. I have seen a rendering tutorial that has the exact mathematic reflectivity of certain metal element densities in certain temperature ranges of ….yada-yada. That sounds pretty impressive but the result can get so perfect that it becomes boring. An exact recipe can’t compare to grandma’s cooking if that makes sense.