Setting Up Romantic Scenes with MD & V-Ray
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Setting Up Romantic Scenes with MD & V-Ray
30 May, 2018
Character Art
Interview

Marianna Yakimova provided a detailed breakdown of her Romeo & Juliet scene created with V-Ray, Marvelous Designer, and ZBrush. 

Introduction

My name is Marianna, I am 26. I live and work in Moscow. In 2017 I founded my own 3D art studio Pompidou. We offer a full range of art services for business. We deal with design, develop products from concept to release. Our focal point is 3d modeling and animation, while generally, we do everything connected to CG. I have been a 3d modeler for about 8 years. At first, it was just a hobby as far as I had been studying on the faculty of design at the art university. World of 3D modeling lured me, I was wondering how all it works and keen to try there the skills I learned in university. After graduation, I got my first job in CG in an advertising agency. At the same time, one of my advertising artworks took a rightful place in a prestigious competition ADCR Awards. Later I started working on my own as a freelancer. I had been getting quite a lot of orders and found a few constant customers which eventually inspired me to set up my own business.

I guess that I had been going towards my own business closely related to art and creativity all my life. Way back when I was a child I taught myself to draw and after moving to Russia (before that I lived and studied in England) I enrolled at an art school where I got a classic academic education. Then I got a higher education. I finished Moscow State Textile University, faculty of applied arts. Mostly we studied design, but also there were courses on classical painting, drawing, composition, and graphics. But I gained my core skills only after graduation when I got down to the self-education and set myself a goal to be not worse and even better than world’s best artists. This self-guided work brought me much of my experience. I found plenty of useful information on YouTube and DigitalTutors, also lots of my discoveries were made when I tried to find better solutions during my own experiments.

Start

Usually, my work starts when some idea pops up in my mind, whereupon I make some sketches on paper. I arrived at the conclusion that it works better than to jump to the modeling immediately. I would rather make a sketch, consider all the pros and cons, envisage a storyline and only after all these steps I get down to CG.

About inspiration, there are so many talented artists so the variety of their pictures and projects motivates me. Plus, many great bright movies with unbelievable graphics are shooting nowadays and computer games fairly often set trends for genres and philosophy. But still, classic painting has been at the back of my mind since my childhood. Parents planted a love for it by taking me to museums. That is why I look up to the old classic masters and always try to create something lively and natural.

I am eager not to twiddling thumbs. Just a little while ago I learned how to do visualization in V-Ray. When I realized that I am able to master light professionally, I began to use it in my works. Not only I have always wanted to make photorealistic or detailed artworks, but also endow them with the most important thing – the idea. In all my works I try to make a viewer understand what is going on immediately. In Romeo and Juliet, I wanted to create an impression of freshness, youth, lightness of a young love. Not only show the kissing pair but transfer these messages.  

I don’t limit myself with picture references as many artists do today but also try to dig into the atmosphere. For that purpose it is vital to delve into the appropriate historical period: listen to the music of those days, read some book, understand what engrossed people’s minds, what inspired them and what guided the artists. In that case, you’ll be able to create something new instead of a new copy of the existing pattern. Actually what hugely affects me is a literature. For example, when I was reading Shakespeare’s sonnets I found a few quotes prompted me to the thoughts which I had been trying to convey, explore and render in my project. Looks like I did it.

Details

I put my whole mind on the story, composition and core emotions, I can’t say that there was some complicated technical process behind the work. I started with a sketch, then made rough models and spent most of the time adjusting a scene in V-ray. I had been placing the models to analyze which place and the angle are better for them, gradually adding more details. I had been adjusting my scene to check how it will look like and overpainting it in Photoshop to see what improvements could be made. Such as I designed the dress from the scratch. Initially, I was going to use entirely different style, but later I liked the idea of a rounded train and decided that it will also unite figures on a compositional level. By chance, I arrived at the idea of arches. Rising over characters’ heads arches unite them too.

Knowing that it would be just an illustration, not animation nor game model, I’ve been spending most of the time on lighting, camera angle and color palettes. All-in-all, if you consider photorealistic artworks of modern artists, mine will not be so highly detailed since it wasn’t my goal. Nowadays, almost all artists concentrate on the level of detail, neglecting the core idea and emotional impact. As a result, we often get just a dull picture without an idea and philosophy behind. I have grown out of the stage of photorealistic pictures, now I am eager to reach a new level, level of ideas. So, when the viewers from various communities tell me that my picture is a fine art painting, I suppose that I have got things done. Strangers are not aware of my intention, but if a quick look at my work evocates these thoughts in them, it means I coped with the challenge I set myself.

Painting

For my materials, I use V-ray tutorials I have recently bought. It is a certified commercial course accompanied with instructions for materials creation: wood, glass, metal, plastic, etc. Also, there is a large chapter about cloth with guides how to make silk, velvet and so on. I use that manual as a basis. Working in Marvelous Designer is really enjoyable, it helped me discover how to design clothes in real life. But I usually do texturing itself beyond MD. I paint models in Photoshop and check the results in super handy Marmoset Toolbag.

In general, my workflow is: make a rough model, upload it to MD, draft a pattern (could be taken from sewing magazines). MD5 added a new amazing feature: you can take measurements as a real tailor. I measure a body, sleeve, chest, waist and then draft patterns. When I am finally satisfied with a general shape of my costume, I organize UV maps in compact pieces appropriate for further texturing. Then, in Zbrush, I add wrinkles and other peculiarities which are not possible in MD but convey the nature of the cloth. When the general shape is ready, I upload it in 3ds Max, create material, add a color I want and render it. So, there is my final stage when it comes to the cloth.

Hair

In the world of 3D, hair creation has always been connected with some difficulties, but over the past few years, technologies have advanced and smoothened things down for us. Today market gives us a lot of software to create hair, like FiberMesh (Zbrush), XGen, Ornatrix, Yeti, HairFarm. I tried all of them, they are quite similar and finally opted for Ornatrix because it is relatively easy to use. At first, without the understanding of the workflow, the process seemed difficult to me because of the lack of detailed video instructions on the internet. Even official tutorials on YouTube end with the sphere studded with hedgehog’s quills we grew. But guess who is supposed to wade through hair setting all alone? And if you are going to create something tricky like a topknot, plait or male haircut, you have absolutely no idea how to do it. In fact, this software is not so difficult. Just use modifiers one above the other to get the hair texture you want. As usual, I start with Quick Hair or Hair Strips for eyelashes, topknots, and plaits. After that I use Strand Render and VrayOrnatrixMod, then play around with different modifiers: Hair Clamps makes strands, Hair Curling forms curls. And there we have it.

I would like to point out that all that hair magic does not rely on the software you use and modifier you choose but on the ability to think as a hairdresser doing hair. For the realistic haircut, I divide hair into zones how a professional stylist does it, then cut. For my artwork Lady In Pink, I used illustrations from XIX century magazine which showed how to do victorian hairstyles step-by-step. In Romeo And Juliet, I used a real male haircut pattern. It is very useful to use black-and-white distributional maps in Ornatrix which show where hair grows and where does not. They also help to make a smooth and realistic hairline, better than we would get manually.

Semi-transparent airy cloth

I got the idea from classical pieces of art. To get this airy chiffon I use V-ray instructions mentioned before. Semi-transparency is due to the multiple levels of cloth since I put them gradually they look airy. The secret is: I would have never got it by using only one layer of semi-transparent chiffon. Variety of chiffon layers resulted in the variety of transparency: somewhere the cloth is barely seen, while somewhere is quite dense like a fog. This idea came to me out of the blue, I did not expect to get such a good result and when I noticed it for the first time I decided to give it a try.

The look

In the early stages, I was looking for information on YouTube and other resources but I came up empty: mostly there were technical guides like “push that button to get a nice picture”. Really, visualization was a mystery for me. While modeling came natural to me, I spent a few years on visualization. So, as soon as I felt a kind of financial freedom I realized that could stop growing as a professional if not take more fundamental approach. At that point, I bought an official V-Ray course from their site and have never regretted it. The thing that technical aspects take only 3 first lessons especially appeals to me. I watched the course of Ciro Sannino where he described how to get particular effects in terms of art. He watched with a professional eye of a photographer and described how to get a lighting similar to artistic photography. After that course, I began to experiment independently. Now I can say with conviction that magic of any picture does not rely on how many things and details I draw, no, actually the magic lives in lighting. With proper lighting, even a very simple object will look fascinating. The Internet is full of dull artworks while with good lighting even a chair will look as interesting and thrilling as the very detailed object. The most important things in a picture your eye catches immediately, they are composition and lighting. You should make a viewer to understand your message at a glimpse. They will pore over all other details later if you win their attention.

What about technical aspects of V-Ray, I don’t use a lot of passes, only use Extra Texture for ambient occlusion and OjectID to prepare selection masks. Also, I want to say that V-Ray is not a magic wand. Despite the best of your intentions you ought to retouch your picture in Photoshop. There I can emphasize meaningful details. All these actions taken together make picture pleasant and good-looking.

Marianna Yakimova, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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