Marco Plouffe shared the workflow behind the Elden Frog project, showed the tools they used in ZBrush, and discussed the modeling and texturing process.
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I have been a 3D Artist and Digital Sculptor for about 12 years and a Business Manager, an Art Director, and the Co-Founder of Keos Masons for the last 8 years. My childhood dream has always been to artistically express himself through character design and world-building for the video game industry and, for the past years, he proudly worked for some of the biggest companies and brands of the video game and collectible figure industry such as The Witcher, Baldur’s Gate, Horizon Forbidden West, PUBG, Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Borderlands, Sideshow Collectibles, Prime 1 Studio, and XM Studios.
The Elden Frog Project
I wanted to show a full character pipeline on my Twitch and YouTube channels using a quick decimation and the auto-UV technique that replaces the steps of retopo and lets the artist take a complex high-res and render it in a typical renderer like Arnold. I worked on a rough 2D concept and then showed the 3D process during my live streams.
I used ZBrush for almost 100% of the project, even for the few clothing parts (Cloth Nudge was used for the cape dynamic, for example). The details were placed using simple alpha brushes and the Surface tool.
For the armor, I sculpted most of the central ornamental design and the noise was a collage of JRO alphas.
Retopology & Texturing
The retopology is the interesting step: I basically merged all similar materials (metals, leathers, cloth, skin, etc.) and decimated them to about 1.3 million polys. Then I made the UV automatically in RizomUV in many 2K maps (with UDIMs) and baked and textured everything in Substance 3D Painter.
Please note that I made sure that each group of meshes of 1.3 million polys had an equivalent grouping of high-res meshes of no more than 25 million polys to avoid crashes.
The textures were almost exclusively done by hand by studying references. I did use a few “overlay” type layers to boost curvature and shadows.
It was rendered in Arnold with a simple 3-point studio lighting with warm lights, making sure the main light leaves a nice shadowy portion on the model on its left side for a more dramatic effect while still showing most of the model.
I started streaming in May of 2022 and finished in January of 2023, working only 2-3 hours every week or so. I advise aspiring artists to work more than that on their private projects and I STRONGLY suggest finishing your models and starting new ones instead of trying to make things “perfect”.
Marco Plouffe, 3D Artist & Art Director
Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie
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