In this interview, the top 3 from the FIlm/VFX Character portion of the Wild West Challenge, Stavros Karagiannis, Aditya Chauhan and Ellie Dupont share how they created their outstanding winning submissions and what they learned.
Tell us about your concept for your piece.
Stavros: The concept I selected was The Native Sister created by Lorenzo Tosi. I chose this concept because I found the pose really interesting. I also wanted to practice my anatomy skills and the native sister’s pose was dynamic with enough complex body parts for practice.
Aditya: I picked a concept from Phase 1 and before browsing through the amazing submissions, I was sure that I wanted to make stylized female character. That helped me narrow down my search. I picked few concepts but I fell in love when I saw Vinz El Tabanas‘s Rosaly Kill design. His designs were very appealing and I loved the back story of the character. I saw that this character had all the elements of skin, cloth, leather, metal, hair, and even fur for material variation and I knew that this is what I wanted to go ahead with.
Ellie: I chose the concept by Ivan Dedov as I really liked the style and mood of his characters from the concept phase. They were very original. I chose the Law Woman because I thought it would give me a good opportunity to focus on sculpting clothing, which is something I wanted to work on for this challenge.
Tell us about the strategy and process for creating your piece
Stavros: I started the modeling process building everything in the “A” pose, up to the point I had established enough landmarks and shapes/ forms. After that, I unwrapped the model’s UVs. Then I moved on posing it in the final pose, fixed the crumpled geometry mostly on the joints and sculpted the details. After that, I relaxed the UVs to remove the distortion created from the detail sculpting and hand painted the color textures of the body in ZBrush. Clothing was created in Marvelous Designer, ornaments in 3ds Max and their textures were done in Substance Painter. Hair was created using Ornatrix. For the final renders, VRay was used without any post processing work.
Aditya: Since I had participated in previous challenges, I had a strong pipeline set and knew solutions to all the technical problems I faced previously. This time I wanted to make a good presentation with a backstory in the final image which I was lacking before so I took lot of references of lighting shots from films and concepts. Time was not an issue even with a full-time job I knew that I could pull it off. I have shared many techniques that I used to model and some tips and tricks using Nanomesh to get a quick dry grass on surface. If anyone has any doubts or questions, they are free to contact me.
Ellie: My main aim with this piece was to try to work as fast as possible whilst pushing for the highest quality I could within the time frame. Although there were lots of things I would have rather spent more time on, I knew I had to let go and keep moving forward if I was going to finish on time. There is a tendency to stay in modelling for too long so I tried to move out of modelling swiftly.
What did you struggle with the most?
Stavros: The hardest part was blocking and finalizing the pose. Another thing that I struggled with was setting up lighting and materials, in order to get rendered images that would be interesting, complementing my work.
Aditya: The part where I struggled the most is in the overall presentation. I kept changing the rough idea I had and kept iterating. At first I wanted to make a whole saloon scene to put her into, then later I learned that I only need some props of a saloon to tell a story so I made a saloon tool and wooden base. In the end, I feel that it turned out great with some dramatic lighting.
Ellie: I found that the hardest part for me was to try to get the lighting of her face right. I wanted a dark and moody lighting setup, while at the same time trying to highlight her facial features. It was hard to strike a balance with the understated style of the character and also trying to make her stand out. I would have liked to make her eyes stand out better if I had more time.
What other submissions stood out to you?
Aditya: Yes, there were so many great submission not only from the VFX Character category but from other categories as well. Stavros‘s character was really good. I also loved Frédéric Arsenault‘s animations and presentation as well as Ellie‘s and Zacharias‘s submissions. Mostly, I like to see the process that people shared. I learned a lot through that and incorporated it in my workflow.
What were your learning takeaways from this challenge?
Stavros: During the challenge, I had to search on the Internet for native American clothing, weapons, ornaments etc. and it gave me more ideas and inspiration. I even looked up documentaries trying to find the correct bow grip in order to be as accurate as I could. I loved having a WIP thread where apart from having the advice and ideas that others had commented on my work, I would revisit it often and would see problems I had not seen the last time I looked at it. This whole process helped me improve my skills and I honestly learned a lot.
Aditya: My main goal was to improve my knowledge in sculpting something stylized with realistic material and learning how to present a character well. These are the two major things that I have learned and I feel much more confident that I will be able to handle something similar in future.
Ellie: I think the most important thing I learnt from this challenge is to always pay attention to the feedback from other artists. Once you have been looking at your work for too long, you will start to lose track of where the improvements need to be made, and the ArtStation community are really great at giving constructive feedback.