Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Black Phoenix" Project




Questions & Answers 

Hey guys, thanks so much everybody who responded to the website update and a “10 days of Mech” Session. I’ll be slowly updating the other sections of www.bulgarov.com, so keep an eye for upcoming updates!
 Now regarding the “Black Phoenix Project” I received several emails asking about similar things, so I just decided to answer all of them here :)

What is “Black Phoenix Project”?
It’s a working title/name of a series of designs that showcases the product line of a fictional military corporation called “Black Phoenix”. As I mentioned on my website it’s a collaboration with Maria Skotnikova, who ‘s responsible for creating high-res hdr-environment maps I use for lighting. The plan is to make eventually an art-book that would be an album filled with such designs.
Right now it’s still early and I only work on it when have free time.

What is “10 days of Mech” ?
A while ago I saw Simon Lee’s 20 days of Monsters –a sculpting session where Simon created  each day a new sculpture for 20 days and then after seeing his presentation with my own eyes I was really impressed and inspired by his speed and sense for character design. I felt like that was an incredible exercise, something like a boot-camp for an artist J, so since then I always wanted to try something similar but with hard-surface designs done in 3d. So I did a 10 days of Mech session as a proof-of-concept for the workflow I want to use for creating the whole art-book. I also prepared myself for this session with some R&D where practiced a work-flow that is different from a traditional production modeling work-flow.

What software did you use?
Softimage XSI, ZBrush, Keyshot, Photoshop

So what went in-to preparation R&D stage?
Before the “10 days of Mechs” session  I did about 3 weeks total of preproduction where I invested my time in collecting/studying references, setting clear expectations for the style, developing and testing the non-subd modeling workflow in xsi,  building the library of 3d kitbash-details(surface details, guts, etc), drawing a library of graphics/decals and assembling a library of physically-based Keyshot materials. The goal was to get everything I needed for the design exercise ahead of time, so I could be more creative and productive and less tech-oriented during the 10 days session.


How much the style of modeling for these concepts was different from the traditional subdivision modeling for production?
The style of modeling was quite different from production modeling. After being a production modeler for almost 10 years I had to re-educate myself in certain aspects of modeling in order to get more illustration-oriented. The goal was not to practice in modeling but to practice in concept art utilizing 3d as just a tool for outputting images rather than creating a nice looking wireframe that fits production needs. The goal was to use 3d the way that would speed up the process of creating concept art rather than slowing it down. So I tried to minimize using such techniques as subdivision modeling since the clean-up of subd topology and edge-loop refinement takes time. Then I also used all kinds of  “dirty modeling” tricks like Booleans, cutting shapes with knife-tool and stuff like this to quickly get the shape I wanted without getting stuck in tweaking individual vertices. I also used ZBrush here and there but I overall tried to keep my mesh light for a faster render so I used mostly poly-modeling by hand.

Did you use a 3d kit-bash library for repetitive pieces and details?
Yes, specifically for this project I have built my own library of surface details and gut parts, that are generic enough so I could re-use them in different designs. Just like with real-world manufacturing, especially with military vehicles  you can see the same type of surface detailing like hooks, tech attachment types and all kinds of hardware on different tanks, helicopters, etc. So I did the same with the  “Black Phoenix Corporation” where the same style and scale and level of detail was applied to the details so I could quickly combine them in-to new more complex designs.

How much hand poly-modeling vs zbrush?
I’d say 75% was hand-modeling. I used ZBrush mostly for the base shape or to create a form that was trickier to build with polys but was very easy with DynaMesh. I’m looking forward to try making some designs using 100% dynamesh and IMM brushes of ZBrush that are available in newer version of ZBrush

Can we see a wireframe screenshot?
Sure! Here is a screenshot of a scoutdog mesh:



How many  working hours a day did you do during the 10 days of mech?
Those were some long-hours days. Some of them were as long as 16 hours of work with only two quick meal breaks. But since the goal was to stay within a one calendar day per design I would follow a long working day with a not so long day( like 12 hours of work) to catch up on sleep and gym :)

What did you use to render?
I used Luxion’s Keyshot.

What about UVs?
Keyshot provides an automatic UV’s solution for the box/cylindric/spherical shapes which worked most of the time. When I had artifacts I would just fix them in final render in Photoshop .

How much Photoshop work was done on top of the Keyshot render when finishing the design?
The finishing in Photoshop included mostly just applying decals and graphics and a subtle dirt/scratch pass. Also, as I mentioned above I used photoshop for quick post-fixes. But overall I didn’t do that much as there wasn’t much time left for post-work.  Ideally I would like to spend another 3-4 hours just to beat the textures up a little more and also refine the integration of the model with environment. That part definitely could use more work!

Did you use a photo-bash approach to add photographic details of real-world tech on top of the rendered models in the post?
No I didn’t. I usually use this approach when it’s a purely 2d piece or if a 3d base is very simple and doesn’t have much detail. But in case of this exercise the need to use photo-details was eliminated by the fact that I had a full-res model done in 3d and it didn’t require additional details.

When is the book coming out?
I don’t know. Maria continues to find and shoot interesting locations with cool environment and lighting that we can use later for the book. But on my side things move much slower at the moment because I’m very busy with the film work right now. I hope to get more free time in about 4-5 months from here and start adding 2-3 days in my weekly schedule back to “Black Phoenix”.

Thanks!
-Vitaly

52 comments:

  1. I admire your patience =)
    I'm always dreaming that they add max spline functionality with all it's spline bevels, booleans and inset features to xsi. That would make xsi best modeling application imo.
    Big thanks for Q&A, very interesting!
    Good luck !

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    1. Thanks a lot for the kind words. Yeah, 3ds max splines are awesome :)

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  2. This is some fantastic mecha design. What were your main inspirations?

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    1. From the real-world stuff the main inspirations were modern tanks and Boston Dynamics robots. From the artists, to name a few: Joe Peterson, Fausto De Martini, Jonathan Berube, Aaron Beck and many others. Thanks a lot!

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  3. thanks heaps for the write up vitaly. and for the art. such great shapes to re_visit and study

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  4. Thanks Vitaly, this is very insightful! :D

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    1. You're most welcome Ben! Thanks for stopping by :D

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  5. You make me giggle Vitaly, to say the least. I'm guessing this is in way of apology and answer to 'the several emails' people who simply don't believe you sent. Misleading original hype aside and this apology of sorts ignored, Ill expect you to turn up in 7-8 months with 18 months of designs claiming 3 weeks of work. Sorry if I do you a disservice but I think in your soul you know I don't. Do you honestly think in this climate you are doing your fellow VFX colleagues any favours. I expect flame or deletion but best said rather than left unsaid imo.

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    1. I read your message couple of times and I honeslty have no idea what tha hell you're talking about?

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    2. yeah. adam. i'd be curious to know what your concern is here if you don't mind sharing ?

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    3. I think what he's trying to say is: With the VFX industry in turmoil, i.e. big studios like R&H having to shut down after working on one of the most impressive VFX movies, VFX artists struggling to make a living despite working 24/7, etc.
      Now someone comes along, claiming to produce a complex mech with extremely high production value in a day's time, as impressive as it may be, sheds a bad light on what the design and building of a production ready asset should really cost, or the amount of time and work that is needed to do it right.
      I know Vitaly explains in this interview, how he had a 3 week pre-production time and how the models are in no way production ready, i.e. usable for animation/rendering in a movie project, but I bet you that talent scouts/producers will gladly turn a blind eye to this fact when they'll offer him to work on the next tentpole VFX flick, asking to produce ILM quality assets in a fraction of the time it would normally take...for less pay of course.
      As impressed as I am by Vitaly's work and the whole concept behind it: It's a double-edged sword, that hits with a bad timing, so I can understand Adam's concern.

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    4. Cheers, I've re-read the whole thing again this morning with fresh eyes and indeed, make sense now.

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  6. pretty bad ass dude! I love the approach makes me want to practice some dirty modeling techniques. really beneficial!

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  7. Coool technique for technics)! Thanks for Questions & Answers. I see, mesh is not smooth. It is a part of “dirty modeling”? Do you use this method for all mechs?

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    1. I use this approach when creating concept-art for hard-surface. If the shape has to be more organic like a cowling of a vehicle or armor I would still start off a subd mesh or a zbrush sculpt. Thanks!

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  8. Amazing!!! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  9. Awesome work Vitaly,you are such an inspiration.My Adam shame on you for being ridiculous.

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  10. Hey brother, as I said many times before, you are an inspiration for me and for the whole art community. When I saw these whole set of mechs you did it really pushed me to make my work process more effective and guess what, it really helped on my work and my personal projects.

    You are a freak of nature :) in a good way of course.

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    1. Thanks so much bro!! Your work has been a huge inspiration for me for many years and it means a lot to receive such words coming from you sir. Cheers!! :)







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  11. His work inspires me every day, design is simply amazing.

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  12. AS ALWAYS VITALY GREAT JOB. WISH YOU ALL THE BEST. LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARE BACK IN TOWN SO WE CAN GET TOGETHER.

    PAUL

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    1. Hey Paul! Good to see you here, thanks for the words! Sure thing, let's catch up in LA :) I'll email you.

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  13. Super inspiring and eerie. Thanks for sharing the process! Also great to a fellow XSI modeler, I don't see too many!

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    1. Thank you! Yeah I don't see that many XSI guys either :)

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  14. I found your stuff from the nuthin but mech blog. WOW! Your robots are insane. All of the little details make it so realistic, and your renders look amazing! I'm a generalist graduating in 2 months, but I love modeling robots, and your robots make me feel the need to practice more.

    Great Job.

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    1. Thanks so much for kind words. Good luck with your study!

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  15. Badass man. Some of your best work, I can't wait to see what comes next!

    Best of luck!
    Jason

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  16. I wish I could draw a stick figure in proper proportions. When I see this kind of artwork, it breaks my brain how this could be done. I wouldn't have the slightest clue where to begin.

    Incredible stuff!

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    1. Thanks a bunch for kind comment, much appreciate it.

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  17. They all look frightfully real ,nobody does steel like you !
    Thank you for inspiration !

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  18. Thank you , Chris, I found this exercise highly interesting.







    Phoenix design

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  19. Tenday inspired me to create such works. Just viewing the video clip with the process of creating one of the robots, I immediately set to work. Thank you!

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  20. hey iam wondering, how would you approach preparing one of these bad-asses for production, UVmapping and such?

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    1. It really depends on the rendering pipeline, final lighting and proximity to the camera. If it's not a 4K film frame close-up, I would try to render it the way it is and test how it goes through pipeline first. If the pipeline requires the mesh to be all Subd then I would have to retopologize most of the mech parts and makes UVs.

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  21. I have alerted government and military officials as I believe you have illegally taken pictures of secret military hardware and you are passing it off as original artwork. ; )

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  22. After reading through your blog and looking at the images as closely as I can, I was wondering if you would be willing to post a shot of your kit bash set?

    Or mentioning more inspirations you used for references for making your kit? I know you had said Boston Dynamics was one, would you be willing to share the rest, or keywords you found produced the best results?

    Amazing work Vitaly, this is truly inspiring stuff! Thank you.

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  23. Hi Darren! Thanks a lot for kind comments!

    You can take a look at the KitBash libraries here:
    http://vitalybulgarov.com/3d-kitbash/

    Also for inspiration and reference I looked a lot at all kinds of military vehicles from different periods of post-WW2 era like helicopters, tanks, turrets, etc.

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  24. Awesome designs Vitaly! I've been looking for a program to model some of my musings, and your process really helps shed some light.

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  25. Its amazing! Really cool works! Dogs, especially)

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  26. Wow! its really amazing and too inspirational post. you have posted nice post.


    web design in phoenix

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  27. Phenomenal work! Time to get to work :)

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  28. OMG you are super talented. You would upgrade Star Citizen

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