Iniyan Vijay discussed the workflow behind his Titan project, shared some advice about working in Substance Alchemist and Maya.
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I am Iniyan Vijay currently working as a Senior Character Art Lead in Lakshya Digital (A Keywords Studio). Also worked on other studios such as Sumo India Games and Rockstar Games. Worked on many AAA titles over the past 12 years to name a few, GTA 5, Split-Second, Sonic Sega All-Star Racing, and recently on Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Currently working on some exciting PS5 projects but I am under NDA, so I cannot reveal the titles or details of them.
Being born in a small town in Southern India I have not seen any games or animated movies till the time I passed the 10th grade and I remember my dad taking me to the College of Fine Arts. Over there I saw the art book of Boris Vallejo which took me to a different world. I have finished my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting after my 10th-grade school. I was exposed to many great animation movies and cinema over there. I decided that I must be part of this industry. Even the internet was a new thing for me till 2004. Once I had access to the internet, I started reading a lot of articles about creating CG Art. Then luckily I found Mudbox and ZBrush which changed my life.
My passion for sculpting creatures and monsters started because of Stan Winston and his works on Jurassic Park and Predator movies. So, I have started creating some digital sculpts in Mudbox and ZBrush while I was studying BFA and tried to get into any studio which is using these tools. However, I had no idea how to get into the industry also at that time studios in India were using mostly Alias Maya. To learn the software, I have to take a course in Image College of Animation and Technology (ICAT) as we didn’t have sources like YouTube, 80 Level, or Artstaion. Luckily, Aravind Subramaniam, who is the programming head in Sumo Digital, saw my work when he visited our college campus and invited me and that is how I got my first job as a Trainee Artist at Sumo Digital.
The Titan Project
This project is based on the concept art of Jaemin Kim who is an amazing Concept Artist, I have been following his work for a long time.
If you look at my portfolio, every character in every project, other than this one, is created by me. Even though creating original characters takes time because in my work I always create concepts provided by the client. I wanted to test my designing skills in my personal work. Also, in my BFA I used to do a lot of concept sketches and I want to put those skills into my personal work.
It is because I am amazed by Jaemin’s style and designs I decided to work on his concept art so that I can learn how he designs these amazing creatures a bit closely. I tried to stay true to the concept art in terms of design and colors.
I have started with a DynaMesh sphere in ZBrush, did a Blockout, and exported with the poly paint using the decimation master plugin and tested it in Arnold render in Maya. This helps me to see how the final character is going to look like. This workflow makes it easier for us to find mistakes in our work as we work in ZBrush continuously it is hard to see the mistake in our own characters.
Below is a sample of how I check my work:
These are some of the progress shots that explain how after every self-feedback the character is getting shaped better than the earlier versions.
Decimated mesh in Maya for the Look-dev Rendering tests. Here you can see the initial mistakes I have made and how I have corrected those in the next iterations.
Also, it is important to spend some time on the camera angles and focal length adjustments at this stage as it makes a huge difference in the final look of the image. Also, this can reveal some mistakes in the work.
Some of the rendering tests:
Regarding details of the scales and skin I mostly, at least in my personal characters, prefer to work manually as much as possible using good old Clay, Move, and Dam Standard brushes. I have used some skin alphas in the model but at the texturing stage, as in Substance Painter, there are a lot of cool skin alphas from Texturing XYZ that is inbuilt and easy to control and manipulate
Texturing work is very straightforward. I used the poly paint from ZBrush as a starting point for the textures. I prefer not to use too many tools or premade smart masks in my work. We can achieve a lot with the Curvature Map generated in Substance.
I used Substance Alchemist for the base pedestal as I was amazed by the capability of the tool and wanted to try it in the character workflow as it was primarily made for the environment work.
I started with simple steps to generate the Height Map which I can use as displacement in ZBrush. Then I remeshed the base in ZBrush, generated UV’s, and textured it in Substance Painter.
Working on Details
For the Claws, Horns, and Facial features I haven’t used any alphas or images. Mostly I did it the old-school way – manually. Also, from the progress images below you can see that I PolyPainted my model at the very early stages of my sculpt so it helped me to decide what level of details I need to add to these scales and horns and I always test-render it before going too much into details.
I have started building my Maya scene with the “quick rig” function in Maya and did some manual skinning clean-up and created some poses. Lighting the scene is very simple with the 3-point light setup with Ai Skydome Light Added HDRI with very low intensity for the overall ambiance.
As a Senior Art Lead working in an outsource studio it has always been my goal to get the direction of the game right as it will be difficult for the clients if we do not understand the art style and design language. Even with this character, I was very conscious that I do not want to spoil Jaemin Kim's design. So, I was giving more feedback to myself and see if the character's core attitude and beauty stay the same. I am very thankful to Jaemin Kim that he shared my work on his Instagram which made me feel I did not disappoint him.