Working on an Apocalyptic Helicopter with a Concept Art Technique

Working on an Apocalyptic Helicopter with a Concept Art Technique

Igor Dolinskiy did a breakdown of his Helicopter project inspired by Mad Max that was modeled in 3ds Max and ZBrush, rendered in Octane, and overpainted in Photoshop.

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Hi! My name is Igor Dolinskiy, I am a Weapon Artist at Frag Lab Studio. We are making a new FPS shooter together with Wargaming. Previously, I worked at Crytek on Warface. I got into gamedev in 2013, when I was 25. My first job was as an animator at ERS Game Studios and before that, I had never worked in any art-related field. 

I don’t have a formal art education and I learned everything from online tutorials. While working as an animator on casual games, I had been learning 3D in my spare time. I had been making everything that came to my mind: a computer speaker, a bedside table, a tank. My friends and I were coming up with various ideas from cartoons to video clips with a combination of video footage and 3D objects. After some time, I had quite many finished projects that I eventually compiled into a portfolio and sent to Crytek. Since 2015, I have been working as a 3D artist. 

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Helicopter Project: Goals & Idea

Since I make assets for game engines, there are a few technical requirements for topology, polycount, textures resolution, and UVs I have to comply with. What I wanted to do is to improve my skills in art, design, composition, and atmosphere. 

At some point, I rewatched Mad Max and thought: If there was a helicopter in this setting, how would it look like?

I took The Bell 47 as the main reference:

I thought of a situation where only an engine and a few pieces of the body were left from the original helicopter and tried to imagine how the inhabitants of that world would re-build it using some scrap metal.

This resulted in these creepy sketches:

I know that the anchor chains are, to put it mildly, unnecessary here but I wanted to add more details, come up with a look from a different world, and create some empty space in the silhouette. 


The base shape was done in 3ds Max. Since I wanted to get a static picture, I didn’t care about topology. At first, I kept adding support edges out of habit, but in the case of concept art it is just a waste of time, a chamfer is enough. 

It's important to always move from big to small, start from a general silhouette, shape, proportions, and gradually move onto specific details. Of course, there are a few great artists who begin making a car from a wheel bolt but they are rather an exception.

I usually use 3ds Max in combination with ZBrush. When the base shape is ready, I send it to ZBrush to work on small details. Among other advantages, this workflow is convenient because you don’t have to merge the elements in 3ds Max, - Dynamesh will do it for you creating soft seams. To make them even softer, you can use Polish. After that, I add some roughness to the surface using the Move and ClayBuildUp brushes, create welding seams, and other minute details. It is very important to use references in your work. In the end, I always use Decimation Master that can drastically reduce the polycount without any noticeable changes, otherwise, 3ds Max might crash from that amount of geometry.

The tiniest details like a protruding paint layer are better to create with textures. It is quicker, lighter in terms of performance and there is no visual difference. However, it still depends on the purpose of your work and the way the geometry is going to be used. In my case, I decided to add most details by overpainting in Photoshop. 

The chains were made in a very simple way: I created one link, copied and rotated it 90 degrees, and repeated the process. Then, I selected all the vertices with Soft Selection and created a slight bend for a more natural look. 

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Since I textured the high-poly without UVs, I generated the dirt in Octane Render. KeyShot, Substance Painter and many other 3D applications have tools for that too. Lately, I've been making 80% of the texturing via generators. In Octane Render, it is done through the Dirt Texture node. The main point is that the software automatically finds the edges and joints of the meshes and generates a mask. By inverting it, you can create dirt in cavities or chipped/scratched edges. After that, you can always clean or add some details manually.

If you want to learn more about texturing in general, I recommend watching this free tutorial made by my friend Alexander Zelenskiy where he explained texturing basics in a short and simple way. 


To summarize, I tried a new workflow often used by concept artists, namely painting over render. Basic lighting and materials were made in Octane Render and then I painted in additional details in Photoshop. It was something I've never done before and this process required more artistic than technical skills. I also learned a lot from tutorials by Jama Jurabaev.

That’s how the raw render before overpaint looked like:

I used to focus more on technical skills but now I see that I should have worked on the artistic side instead. It's important to work out composition, lighting, atmosphere, and storytelling, not just render a 3D model. That’s what I am working on right now. 

Igor Dolinskiy, Weapon Artist at Frag Lab Studio

Interview conducted by Ellie Harisova

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