Maksym Flud talks about the workflow for the Snail in the Woods project, describes the lighting techniques that were used, and gives advice on how to work without reference.
Hello, I'm Maksym Flud, I'm a 3D Generalist/Concept Artist, I live in Lviv, Ukraine. I originally got Art education in Lviv State College of Decorative and Applied Arts, Department of Artistic Woodworking, then graduated from Kyiv National University of Theater, Film, and Television, Faculty of Television and Cinematography, and worked in parallel with training as a cameraman in television.
I've been interested in 3D for a long time, since the release of 3ds Max 2005, but more as a hobby. After graduation, I continued to work in television and worked there for ten years. It was enough for me, the work was quite difficult both physically and morally. I started collecting a portfolio to find a job in the 3D area. I started my career with the visualization of interiors, did it for a short time, and quickly found a game studio where I started working as a Junior 3D Artist.
So far, I can't name any cool projects I worked on. There was a project for Amazon, but I can't name it, and various AA games. About a year ago, I started to develop as a Concept Artist, my first work was Mech_1, and I gradually pumped my skills in concept art. In my first education, a lot of attention was paid to painting, drawing, and sculpture, it helps me in my work now.
The Snail in the Woods Project
I started the Snail in the Woods project with the idea of a character riding some weird vehicle. I didn't have specific references, it's a very creative work, I just did what I imagined.
For any project, if there is no such specific task, I try not to use references or any bases, I can go to Pinterest and collect a little in my visual library memory, but I seldom do any referral boards. If I can't come up with some technical connection or any other mechanism, then I can look at real examples of devices and combine something from different options.
At first, I had the idea to make a scene in the desert, but I love challenges and decided that the misty forest would be more interesting. Then came the idea with a 40-50 years old car but in a futuristic interpretation. When I finished the car, I realized that there would be twilight, something noir.
The composition of the frame arose in the process, but I'm always experimenting and looking for the best shots, Blender just helps with it thanks to very fast rendering Cycles and Eevee.
I made a skeletal base for the car and for the character and could switch between different positions as well as camera and light. I tied it to the keyframes so I could save a lot of options for different scenes, and chose the three best ones. I wanted to do this work as quickly as possible and not procrastinate with a bunch of shots like with my previous work Not Refundable, I mostly set a time limit of one to two weeks to work, so there wasn't time to make a big story here. Although I love working with stories, they take a lot more time to implement.
Тo build the scene, I first threw the road and the car on it, set the angle, and then finished the background and landscape, all subsequent shots were on the same landscape with minor changes, used small details, such as stones and leaves to detail the foreground of the frame.
I sketched the character in Blender, sculpted and textured in 3DCoat, it took me a day and a half, it's very schematic. I like 3DCoat because you can very quickly draw or sculpt something from a workpiece in Blender, that's how I develop most of my assets. I also made the car first in Blender, there were 2 options, I chose the one that was modeled. The car is also not a game model, with many polygons, textured in 3DCoat, with automatic UV mapping, the texture is large enough to have no artifacts. Аlso, I made a texture option for the car where it is dirtier, but I never used it.
There is nothing unique in the modeling, only a three-dimensional concept of the car has been improved, various details have been added. I was constantly observing the car from different angles and under different lighting conditions. It allowed me not to overdo the details. Since the character was ready, I put it inside and saw how they looked together. Blender has a very cool Eevee viewport and real-time rendering. I also had a small window where I followed the silhouette, so there are no secrets or gimmicks, I already have a lot of modeling experience, and such things are not a problem for me. I just do what I think is best.
With lighting, everything is also simple. As I have art and film education and extensive experience with light in television, there is nothing extraordinary, just a lot of practice, I have no problems with creating a frame or an arrangement of lights. In 3D, it is even easier to do than in reality, I can quickly look at different lighting options and decide which one I like best. Basically, I first set the Main Light, for example, in this scene it's a cloudy sky, the sun has already set but still gives light. I chose the most suitable texture of the sky and adjusted it, then added light from the car headlights, and only then began to add the rest of the lights, illuminated trees, added backlights to the car. All these extra lights should emphasize the atmosphere that I set with the Main Light.
If you want to improve your skills with the lights, I advise you to ask about lighting in movies. On the Internet, there are many examples and materials on this topic. When I was satisfied with the result, I made the final visualizations and threw them into Photoshop, where I finalized them, there are no special tricks. First of all, I adjust the tone, contrast, and color. Then, I basically got rid of the plastic effect typical for 3D projects, painted some places that were not done enough, added a tonal perspective, and also smeared the details in the background so they aren't too distracting. I also added fog from my small library of 2D resources. In general, I rarely use it, but fog is just good to add in post-production, it's much faster than doing it in 3D, but it all depends on the situation in which you find yourself. For the background, I picked up the texture of the sky and put the woods into Blender, so in Photoshop, I did not have to draw something in the background with masks or something like that. All I had to do was correct the background tone and remove the interfering details.
In each of my works, I try to do what I haven't done before or approach work in a new way, in this case, twilight – this is not a simple option for lighting; the forest is also a difficult task, there are a lot of small leaves and branches, all this could become a problem. Also, I finish my work in Photoshop more and more, which is also a challenge for me because my skill in it is not developed very well. In total, it took me ten days, with sketches and refinements in Photoshop.
I did not use any special tricks in this work, but my advice is – value your time. For example, if you can use a ready-made tree, then do it or generate it in Blender generator, do not waste time on it, especially if it is in the background. Don't do what has already been done. I try to disassemble all my work into assets and reuse them, it will also save you time. Also, do not try to achieve a perfect result in every element, in every part of the work. You will spend a lot of time on things that will not be visible later, so think about what is the main part and what is the background of the work, you can add something later in Photoshop; cutting out an element from photos is also a good option. Be interested in related areas, such as movies, animation, advertising, games. This will all expand your visual library and teach you how to distinguish good art from bad. Be familiar with modern technologies and techniques. For example, what the applications for Blender are if you use it, there are a lot of them and there are really cool things that save you time.
Good luck. I hope you will learn something new for yourself.