Hello everyone, my name is Damiano and I am a self-taught 3D Artist. I have a background in Traditional Arts (having studied in an Art School) and a strong passion for both VFX and animated movies, games and comics! I tried to take as much time as I could to refine it and finally I introduce to you my latest personal project in character art, a digital double for VFX films:
Likeness study of the actress Daisy Ridley, from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I chose to start this project for improving my sculpting skills and deepen knowledge of facial anatomy. It was very challenging because this was my first digi-double project, but I learned a lot and it allow me to reach a new level of accuracy and realism.
MODELING / SCULPTING
I started in ZBrush, sculpting primary and secondary forms using references images of the actress (from the web) gathered in PureRef. Some of the references used to sculpt the likeness below.
After retopology in Maya, I decided to add skin details and imperfections by hand, pore by pore creating my own alphas without any scans, inspired by amazing artists who shared their tips on the web.
Obviously it's a crazy job sculpting every single pores, but given the artistic nature of the project this exercise helped me to enhance my technique and workflow, and to learn more about the powerful tools and functions of ZBrush.
For the eye group, I modeled several pieces of geometry: sclera, iris, caruncle and eye meniscus. Also, the iris details was sculpted by hand in ZBrush as well as the clothes.
I imported my model in Substance Painter where I hand-painted the Diffuse, Specular and Roughness maps of the skin. Starting with a base color, I followed the theory of Color Zones of the Face to add various layers and details to the skin, as shown below.
Same thing for the textures of the sclera, caruncle and iris.
Since I've used the UDIM workflow, I transferred the model in Mari to have more control on the patches and apply more variation and realism to the skin using the ZBrush Displacement map. For some reason, the exported ZBrush displacement has a few small differences between patches, but this amazing software allowed me to control them individually and apply the necessary adjustments. With the same workflow, I painted the textures of the clothes, and after little adjustments on the Diffuse texture of the face I exported all the 4K maps.
Initially this project was rendered in sRGB colorspace, but recently I decide to upgrade it to the ACES colorspace to better understand this industry-standard workflow.
Said this, lighting and look development was done in V-Ray. I made this decision after reading that Thanos was rendered with this software. I was inspired by this exceptional level of realism and I tried to reach it in my project, with a lot of experimentation. For a better explanation I have divided this section into several paragraphs:
After connecting the hand painted textures to the AlSurface shader, I tried to get realism playing with the specular/roughness using both Reflection parameters of the shader in combination, and configuring different normal maps, one for the primary skin details (exported directly from ZBrush) and one for the micro-details (generated procedurally in Substance Painter). Also it was important to adjust the SSS Density Scale value.
Render passes below: Diffuse, Specular, Beauty
For the eyes I made a lot of trials and experimentation, but what convinced me the most was to use a VRayBlendMtl for mixing an AlSurface shader (for the sclera) and a refraction shader (for the cornea) with a circular ramp mask. Also, I applied a VRayObjectProperties to the cornea and eye meniscus, disabling the Cast Shadow parameter.
For the iris I simply used an AlSurface shader (with the proper PBR maps connected) and adjusted the SSS parameters. Also, I decided to model a large pupil because I noticed that in most cases the actress has it like that.
My primary intention, was to render a physically accurate eye directly inside the render engine, without using compositing tools to increase the realism. In fact, what you see is the raw render and no smooth transitions or caustics are made in post. Also, despite both geometries of the sclera (and iris) share the same textures, I broke the symmetry by simply rotating the UVs.
Render passes below: Diffuse, Refraction, Specular, Beauty
I used XGen for the grooming part and it was my first attempt with it. It was very challenging to replicate the hairstyle of the actress, and to do this I created different descriptions for the base hair, strands, nodes, hair buns and short hair. In order to achieve a natural look, I used various modifiers and I painted different Density and Width maps for each description, including eyebrows, eyelashes and fuzz.
All descriptions share the same VRayHairNextMtl shader, except eyelashes and fuzz.
Among the software used for this project there is also Photoshop, useful during this part to apply quick corrections to the textures.
I really like the dramatic lighting and for this project I immediately thought about setting up a high contrast light-rig and add this effect to the shots. Starting with a simple three-point lighting with a backdrop, I made little adjustments to the direction of the light and added a bounce light. Below is a small breakdown of the lighting passes showing the Rim, Bounce, Key and Fill lights respectively.
COMPOSITING / POST PROCESS
For this final part, I used Nuke to make a simply exposure adjustment, a little bit of color correction to give a warmer look to the shots, and to increase the saturation (I really like very saturated images).
Then, I decided to add some camera effects such as Vignette, Lens Flares and Depth of Field to direct the viewer's eye on a specific point. I used the ZDefocus node in combination of the Z-Depth pass (from V-Ray) to add the DoF effect. Also, I added some background effects such as smoke and dust to make the shots more interesting. Here are some compositing passes.
Here instead the same shots after applying a black and white filter.
I hope you liked my project and enjoyed reading the explanation of my workflow! Thank you very much!