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Visual Effects Portfolio - Max McGookin
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Visual Effects Portfolio - Max McGookin

Max McGookin
by maxmcgookin on 29 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

My portfolio - A Faerie creature and an alien Robot species. Both of these characters have been created following the entire VFX pipeline in order for them to be animated, rendered and integrated into live action footage. All work showcased here was completed by me, aside from the filmed background plates.

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Hey, I'm Max McGookin. I am a Visual Effects student at Belfast Metropolitan College, here is a collection of my best work from my course and a breakdown of the processes I went through in order to create it all. Hopefully you enjoy. 

Hob - Good and Bad Faeries 

For our class project we were tasked with creating a concept for a live-action adaption of Brian Froud's book, 'Good Faeries Bad Faeries'. Everyone had to go through the characters in the book and each pick one to create a realistic model of, using industry standard techniques and processes. For my character I chose 'Hob', I loved the humanoid but distinctly magical look, and the colourful skin of the character art. This would be my first ever attempt at an organic character in 3D and was a super fun project to work on. 

We then had to chose a filmed plate to plan our shots around, in order to integrate our CG faerie characters with live action footage. I chose quite contrasting shots, with one being a more open, brighter shot and the other being a darker more hidden part of the forest. 

These are my final two composited shots, integrating live action footage and the multi-pass renders of my animated character. I'm really proud of my work on these shots, this is my second time going through the entire VFX pipeline by myself, and first time working with an organic, humanoid character. There's definitely loads of room for improvement but I am super happy with how my final project turned out. 

Hob - Breakdown

Here is a breakdown of my two shot composites showing off some of the different layers I built up in order to create the convincing final shots. 

Below will be a further breakdown of the key steps I took whilst creating my project. In order to create these shots, I worked through the entire pipeline process; from researching references, modelling in Zbrush, UVs in Maya, creating a high detailed sculpt in Zbrush, texturing in Substance Painter, rigging in Maya using the Mgear plug-in and ngSkinTools, animating in Maya, using Meshroom to build photogrammetry for accurate ground shadows and rendering with Arnold Renderer. After this the 3D Tracking, rotoscoping, compositing and additional effects were all composited together using NukeX. 

Turntable showing off a breakdown of some of the passes used when creating my final character composite. Rock asset that he is standing on was sourced online. 

SketchFab view of my faerie model. Have a look around to see the details of the sculpt and also the topology of the character model. 

Here is the inspiration for my character. Artwork from Brian Froud's book 'Good Faeries Bad Faeries' - on which my character is based. Also a PureRef board for the research and references I looked at when creating my character. 

Sculpting iterations from Zbrush. This was my first time sculpting a organic character and as such it took me quite awhile to actually work through the look I wanted for the character. He had to be realistic but still contain the feeling of the world Brian Froud created. I think the final sculpt could still use work but it was a very productive process, learning lots about the character creation process and also learnt plenty of things I can work on to improve my work. 

Some topology had to be fixed up in Maya and also created UDIMs for the first time using Maya as well. I then took my model into Substance Painter to try and create realistic textures for the blue skin. 

Closer look at some of the sculpted detail from Zbrush and also the detailed character skin texture created within Substance Painter. 

Created biped rig using Mgear. Weight painted using Maya weight paint tools and also ngSkinTools. I then created facial blendshapes using Zbrush and built a facial GUI in order to control them within Maya. 

Rendered character using Arnold Renderer. This contains the RGBA pass, Diffuse pass, Specular pass, Subsurface Scattering pass and also a wireframe pass to show off the topology and rig movement.

Nuke X node set-up for both Shot 1 and Shot 2. Used AOVs from Arnold together with shuffle nodes in Nuke to separate out the different render passes from Maya, I then composited them over the background plate, integrated a shadow matte of the ground using a Maya render layer, added additional effects (reflection in the water for shot 1 and teleportation effect in shot 2), rotoscoped elements in the foreground, added motion blur, grain and graded the final composite.

I hope you enjoyed this project and the breakdown of the process I went through to create it. This was my second ever VFX sequence that I created following through the whole production pipeline by myself and my first ever organic character. 

Kilowatt - Batteries Not Included

For this project I was tasked with creating an updated shot from the 1987 film 'Batteries Not Included'. The goal was to create a similar shot to one of the shots in the movie but re-create it with modern Visual Effects practices.

In order to do this I first had to pick a character from the film and design them in 3D software. I then followed the VFX production pipeline in order to integrate the final CG character within some live action footage. 

This is my final VFX sequence with the chosen character of Kilowatt, composited onto a live-action background plate I found. Everything in this shot was done by me except for the filmed plate. Including the model, texture, rig, animation, lighting, render, 3D track, rotoscoping and multi-pass composite. 

Kilowatt - Breakdown

Below will be a breakdown of the key steps I took whilst creating my project. In order to create this shot, I worked through the entire pipeline process; from researching references, modelling in Maya, creating UVs in Maya, , texturing in Substance Painter, rigging and animating in Maya and rendering with Arnold Renderer. 3D Tracking, rotoscoping, compositing and additional adjustments were all made using Nuke X.

Turntable showing off a breakdown of some of the passes that I rendered out when creating my final character composite. Rendered with Arnold Renderer

Here is the inspiration for my character. I took the design from the film and then looked at updating it slightly with a more sleek modern feel to it. I also think that this added a more futuristic, alien-like feel to the character model.

SketchFab of my model to have an interactive look around and see the topology and further detailing. 

Here's a look at my model after being textured in substance painter and some closer looks at the details of the character sculpt.

Multi-pass renders of my 3D character model. Showing off the RGBA, Diffuse, Specular, Emission and ID passes. Rendered using Arnold Renderer.

Hope you enjoyed this breakdown of my character, Kilowatt. This was my first ever 3D character and also my first time completing the entire VFX pipeline. I really learnt so much from this process and I am very proud of my final results. I know that there is lots to improve on and will be hard at work to produce more fun projects like this one. 

Max McGookin - VFX Showreel

I am really proud of my collection of work. When reflecting back on it, it's been very surreal to see just how far I have advanced in not a very long period of time. I really enjoyed working on these projects, and I am so excited to see what I will be able to do with all the skills and knowledge I have picked up from completing them. It is my aim after this to continue to grow the quality of my work and to make my first steps into the industry, to make further advancements to my knowledge and understanding, but also to be able to share my work with an even wider audience across the globe. 


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