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Sergio Brotons from elite3d talked about the production of impressive characters for games, torn issues, low poly and more.
Hello, my name is Sergio Brotons and I’m a 3D Character Artist, now working at elite3d in Valencia. I’m 31 years old, I’m from Alicante, a city of Spain and I have been working in video games for almost 4 years.
I started working in the industry at Gameloft for about a year and a half. There I worked as a 3D Artist job and focused on the covers and icons of the games. After that, I was hired at elite3d, which is where I am currently. This is where I was given the opportunity to work for almost 2 years on Call of Duty WWII, my first and only game published to date.
What Makes Up a Good 3D Character
80lv: What do you feel are the most important things to nail in the 3d character production? Why do you feel like some characters actually evoke interest and some just left unnoticed?
Developing a good 3D character not an easy task and you always find ways of improving it, but I would say that the most important thing comes before you even begin, at the reference gathering stage, in the volume study and details of what you are going to do. If you make an arm, you have to do an anatomical study before, if you make a coat, you should know how that coat is built, which material it’s made of, what type of wrinkles it generates – it isn’t simply adding random wrinkles and creases. Things like this are fundamental to generate a good work later on. Then, dedication and practice, a lot of it, to create that eye-catching work that makes people want to see it. It’s a never-ending process. Last but not least, I would say the design matters no matter whether it is choosing a concept or having done the concept art. If the design doesn’t evoke anything then it is complicated to achieve such effect in a 3D model, even when it is artistically and technically well done.
Apart from this, if you want to evoke interest without doing all of the above, just make fan art and take advantage of their success, whether the model is good or not (I’m kidding).
When It Comes to Low Poly
80lv: There’s always this struggle between high and low poly models and as to what kind of details could be saved. Could you tell a bit about the way this process is going for you? What would you say are the essential things to have and what can be left behind?
I would say that it is the most important part when making a low poly, to know where you can put more geometry and where you don’t need so much. You have to find the balance. It also depends a lot on the budget you’ve got, but the areas in which the silhouette is affected should have more geometry, and flatter areas or where the silhouette doesn’t change much, less. In this case, the normal map will do all the work.
Decomposed & Torn Issues
80lv: In your recent works you’ve done some stellar work with decaying or destroyed organic substances. Could you tell us a little bit about the way it works? How do you experiment with these types of visualization and what is a good way to build torn tissues in 3D?
Before even jumping into ZBrush there is a step where I gather a lot of references and study them. First, you have to know very well what we had in there before the decomposition (skin, fat, muscle, bones, organs, etc.) to know how to destroy later.
At first, looking for images so gore is hard, although you end up getting used to it. Within a logical order of the structure of a body, modeling and creating something in decomposition gives you a lot of freedom, it all needs to make sense, but you can be creative about it and maybe it´s the most rewarding and most fun that I’ve had.
And to create torn tissue the best advice is to exaggerate. If you break a leg, at some point show the bone, make a muscle hang or hook it to another end. In short, bring it to life.
80lv: What’s your approach to texturing? How do you usually place the colors and choose the details?
In this phase, I work the same way as in the high poly, from the general to the particular. I try to make a rich and varied base, adding different subtleties of color and a different shade. From there, I take advantage of the work done in the high poly and use smart masks, generators and brushes to add details of material, wear, dirt, broken, etc.
80lv: In your sculpts, you’ve got a lot of those crazy little details like the zombie’s ear, for example. What way do you add impressive little things to your designs?
It must be said that in this case, the concepts art (of which you speak, Zombie Sprinter and Head Brenner) is the property of Activision and the details were brought by the character designers from the great team of concept art in Sledghammer Games. We from elite3d sometimes we make concepts arts, but on this one have been commissioned to make these concepts into 3D models. At elite3d, we sometimes make concept art, but these particular concepts were commissioned.
Advice for Learners
80lv: Overall, what would you recommend for the users who want to approach game development production?
It is very relative, but I would say that much practice and learning are the core elements. Look at the experienced artists who already work on the characters for games and check what they have done. Many of these experienced artists have tutorials which you can learn a lot from. I would say that the most important thing is to practice every day because it is an ever-changing industry.
In terms of the study resources, nowadays the Internet is full of great tutorials made by artists who work in the industry and they know very well how everything works. Apart from that, a lot of anatomy and color study. Books like “Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form” by Eliot Goldfinger or “Anatomy for Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure” by Uldis Zarins with Sandis Kondrats are very good resources.
Finally, I would like to thank Csaba Molnar (Sledghammer Games), for helping me so much, and specially all the elite3d team, because they are the ones who day after day have taught and helped me a lot, especially Jose Lazaro (aka Joe Tuscany) and the whole Character Team”