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Alejandro Olmo talked about his Norse Shaman character made within CGMA course Next Gen Character Creation with Adam Skutt. Software used: ZBrush, SP, Toolbag, Mari, Marvelous Designer, Knald and more (check the full list on ArtStation).
My name is Alejandro Olmo and I am from Puerto Rico. I am a character artist for movies and video games. Currently, I am a freelancer doing voluntary work for a video game called Galaxy in Turmoil for Frontwire Studios. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work as a concept artist at the early stages of the upcoming Sony Pictures film Venom, and as a 3D modeler for the upcoming motion pictures Replicas. My background also includes smaller projects for 3D printing, 3D modeling for video games characters and as a Professor and 3D Character Artist in the Creative Department for a local university.
CGMA Course Goals
My objective in taking the Next Gen Character Creation class at CGMA was to learn the correct pipeline in the industry for a real-time character. The process was completely new to me because all I have worked on before was concepts and basic 3D models. I wanted to understand my weaknesses and learn how to focus on a specific project and make it look good. It is important for me to practice every day, learn something new, keep pushing myself to get better because my main goal is to get a full-time job in the industry.
Start of the Character
In terms of sculpting each character presents its own challenges. Anatomy is one of the skills I try to keep learning. One of the key elements that allow you to get more value taking a CGMA course is receiving the feedback of your mentor, in my case was Adam Skutt, which by the way is one of my favorite artists. I am not the best at anatomy and his feedback helped me do a lot of drastic changes to the character. There is still much to learn and every day comes with the opportunity to keep learning. The best thing you can do to make a character look good is to use references, without them it is more difficult to achieve the objective.
I always start all of my characters by gathering references. Once I have what I was looking for I start the sculpting process in ZBrush.
Reference & Story
The first step of the process was to look for references as I said above. The details of an organic model like this one are important, it requires time and a clear visualization to make it pop. The process of creating the character, accessories, and clothes go hand in hand. I wanted the character to tell a story, allow the viewers to imagine where he lives, his behavior, his traditions, etc.
My biggest inspiration to create The Norse Shaman came from two of my favorite games: The God of War and HellBlade Senua’s Sacrifice. I wanted to create a character that could easily fit into one of those worlds. I didn’t want to create a heroic character. The main goal was to create a character that makes you wonder: is he good or evil, does he have powers, can I trust him? Something a little more complex. That is why I decided to create an old man, a little deteriorated with tattoos and either little or no expression.
Creating a real-time character and making sure that shaders look good is new to me. To be honest, it is all new to me. I am still working on the character, looking for ways to improve it, to make it look more realistic. I took the liberty of contacting some artists that are already in the industry and asked for feedback. One of the things they all agreed on was that I needed to re-work the skin shaders. I used Mari for the color base and Substance Painter for the roughness and dirt on the skin. For the translucency, I did a bake in Knald and applied it to Toolbag working with some parameters. I also tried to maintain a simple illumination inside Toolbag, basically, a 3-point lighting and a very soft HDR fill light.
Here is a before and after of the skin shader:
To create the details inside ZBrush I use the standard, dam standard, and clay brushes, then I exported a decimated model to Mari and using textures of Texturing XYZ I generated the displacement map. Next step would be exporting it back to ZBrush to have the basic and micro details to do a bake in Knald afterward. I added a noise texture in the detail normal map channel inside Toolbag to have more defined pores and light breakup.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered was to understand the full pipeline and be able to implement it on the character. I also had to learn to use new programs like Mari, Substance Painter, Marvelous Designer, and Marmoset Toolbag. Every character has its own challenges but I could say that anatomy, proportion, and materials are the common ones. I am still working with this character, practicing and learning new techniques every day.
Feedback: Lessons Learned
The biggest lesson learned is the dedication and time that is required to create a high-quality character. I had to learn how to be exposed to constant constructive criticism and not to be afraid to receive feedback from other artists in the industry. Honestly, it helped me grow and it has kept the motivation to keep wanting to learn more, be a better artist and fight more to achieve my dreams.