Not much time left now. I just finished the last work on Jean Francois. Since it was quite a while since my last post, I’ll try to cover as much ground as possible now.
A lot has happened in the last few days. All texture work has been finished and all maps have been baked out and shaders have been tweaked and finalized. Since our artstyle is quite stylized and cartoony all textures were handpainted, sometimes using photoreference as an initial guide (mostly for the skin parts).
After finishing the color maps I exported these into photoshop to work on my sub surface maps. I decided to use mental rays subsurface scattering based shader miss fast skin maya for all the skin shading. This shader uses three channels to build up the layers of skin. Epidermal is the top layer of skin where i plug in a cool desaturated version of the colormap. The subdermal layer gets a overly saturated reddish map to represent the fleshy tones underneath the skin. Finally the backscatterin channel gets a simple map as to decide where the back scattering effect should be most prominent. Often spots like the nose or the ears tend to have a red kind of translucent glow since light travels through them. Since we wanted to go with a bit exhaggurated sss effect i tried to make this shader a bit more prominent than usual when rendering.
The clothes recieved some very simple blinn shading. The stylized look demanded an almost flat shading here. Some simple metal shading was done using the mia materal x passes shader for mental ray.
Displacement and normal maps were baked out from zbrush using the multi map exporter plugin. The displacements were used up to a level of 4 subdivisions in maya using the mental ray approximation editor to compute the subdivision. The rest of the details, subdivisions 4-7 were done by exporting normal maps with the base created at lvl 4 in zbrush. This way we wouldn’t end up with an unnecessary high amount of polygons upon rendering, relying on normal maps to create all the detail that had no direct impact on the silhouette.
My final part was then to decide how to set up all the character specific render layers in Maya. Some shaders, such as the sss shaders do not support rendering with passes in mental ray. This made it necessary to split up these shaders into a seperate render layer, masking out all intersecting and covering geometry and creating layer overrides to make sure only the sss effect would be rendered. Ambient occlusion was also split up in a layer of its own. There is a preset for ambient occlusion in the maya passes presets, but this usually gives a bit poorer results, so we decided upon setting up this layer manually. The final render layer held all the other necessary passes needed for good comp in nuke. More about that in a little while.
Lastly and a bit sadly I come to the conclusion that the animated displacement maps for the facial animation I started to research earlier on will not be able to be fitted into my remaining schedule. Had this part been planned and researched a bit more thoroughly at an earlier stage I might have had time to make it happen.