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ALIEN - Fan Demo
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ALIEN - Fan Demo

Alexandre Mouries
by Almo on 20 Nov 2023

Personal Fan-Project: Summer 2023 (Between second and third year at ESMA)

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This is a personnal fan-project that I started during summer 2023 and decided to abort before going back to school. Being a huge fan of the Alien franchise, I thougt it would be cool to use it as a base to kind of test myself and determine what I could do with my current knowledge of 3d. Doing it during the summer vacation was good in the sense that I had all the time in the world to do it. 

The goal of the project was to create a 3d model of a Xenomorph creature, texture it, rig it, animate it and insert the results into real life footage. 
I started the whole thing at the start of my vacation in early June 2023. Unfortunately, I didn't achieved the goals I set up for a variety of reasons and I decided to end this project right before going back to school in the end of September 2023.
I'm still looking forward to restart this project from scratch and try to end up with something more in line with my expectations, but I don't think I'll do it during my school year, I'm already busy enough with all my current school projects ^^'

THE PRE-PRODUCTION

So the first thing I started to do when I got around to it was the Alien design. I thought it would be cool to have my own personnal spin on the design and have something that will make me confortable when I'll get to the modeling phase.
So I did just that, but the Xenomorph design in itself is really complicated and it seems to change with every movie. I told myself it would be a good idea to look on to the side of Fan-creation, but again they seemed to also do their own thing. So, to not make myself think too much, I dediced to also just do a losely adaptation of the design based of all the different references I got. (Looking back, I don't think I took the project too seriously at that time...)
And here is the results I ended up with:  

That turn -along with some complementary sketches- was my base for the 3d modeling, and so, I started to work on it immediately, not knowing that it would be the only thing that reached the production stage out of all the things I planned. 

THE PRODUCTION

And so, I started modeling it. It took some time, but I felt the result was accurate to what I draw.

Then, I entered a part of the production that I never looked in depth: Sculpting. 
I already sculpted on my Insect project, but this was the first time I tried to do organic looking material. It was also my first time using ZBrush (I used Mudbox before), so I kind of learned the basics of the software with this project. Here is the result:

Now with the colors and sculpt done, I could start the rig and finally render the poses. 

At this point in time, I was at the middle of my vacation and the project started to grow a lot in my mind. I thought it would be nice if I could produce some "test images" to see if I'm even able to incrust it well in real-life footages. 

THE POST-PRODUCTION

I decided to do these tests by taking a lot of photos of real places, mainly the parking garage of my school campus, which I thought corresponded well to the atmosphere I wanted to set up. I choosed to go with these three.

I decided I would modify the picture to corresponds to the colors and visual ambiance of movies from the franchise. My main picks being Aliens(1986), Alien³(1992) and Alien: Resurrection(1997). The whole process was done with Nuke.

And so, I finished my three concept pictures. As I said earlier, the project kept getting bigger in my mind and I kept thinking about a lot of things that could increment my project. 

And so... I decided to do title design! 
Yes, I just love logo and title design, so I told myself that it would be fun to do as well as make the project look more "complete" (i guess, idk at the end of the day, it's just a cosmetic thing I did just because I thought it was a cool thing to do!).

I decided to make a logo that would look like the first Alien(1979) movie as well as those who got inspired by it, because I like consistency in title design (and the Alien movies are my worst nightmare in that regard). And I tried doing it by using the same fonts used for the logos that inspired me. 

I should maybe say that the "Aberration" subtitle doesn't mean anything. I just picked it because I wanted a cool word  which ended in "tion". X)

And with the title finished, I wanted to incorpore it into my Test images. I ended up doing it all the while adding a frame with description, to kind of give it a "cool concept-art presentation" X) I don't know, I guess I wanted something that looked cool! 

But with all of that said, here is the final Version of my test images!

What I didn't know at the time, was that these test images would be this project in its most advanced state. I made more about it, but this is the most elaborated thing that came out of it, so I'm going right to the next part:

SELF-CRITIQUE

The thing that bothers me the most about the final results is the design of the Xenomorph creature, which I find absolutely awful in every way! The anatomy is so bad and it was that way since the sketches, I just did it so wrong and just rolled with it (the legs are thicker than the belly, I can't!!). The texture and the sculpt, I also find bad. I guess I can't hate it too much since it remains my first ever work on ZBrush. But looking back on the final result, it remains bad. The rig is also bad on some area, especially the hand. I guess the geometry is also to blame, but I just can't stand their look in pose. I'm also kind of disapointed that I didn't take the time to add more details which I consider as essentials today, like the tongue (yes, it doesn't have it's iconic tongue) or the skull inside the transluscent dome. I also find it way to organic and not that mechanical, while the main principle behind the Xenomorph is it is supposed to be a Biomechanical creature (which, I guess it's less the case in some installment of the franchise for the right reasons, but it was still my intention, and I missed it.) That along with some others details like the tail I find too small...

Like I said, I didn't got to finish this project and there are a lot of things I wanted to include (the most notable thing being an alien egg model). I didn't succeed at managing my time and balancing it with personnal things in my life and summer school project.

One of my biggest regrets with this project is also how I treated it a lot just as a tech demo during the early stages, which really impacted the way it evolved. I think that's why I didn't looked a bit more in the Xenomorph design and it ended up like this. 

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But after I finished the test images for good, I already noticed most of these problems, it was one month before the end of summer vacation, so I decided to take all of these informations to... just restart the project. 

THE SECOND VERSION

Yeah, I knew I would never do what I planned, but I decided to at least take this opportunity to improve myself and take my time to make something better. 
I also found myself playing the videogame Alien: Isolation(2014) and I heavily noticed the high dedication of the Creative Assembly team to reproduce the artistic direction of the first movie in the franchise in every way. This dedication inspired and motivated me to start again and make something I would be more proud of.

With this new version, I decided to make a new Xenomorph model, but this time, I tried to make it look more like the original creature design by H.R. Giger (rip) with it's more biomechanical and sophisticated look.

I really took it as an opportunity to make a more detailled version and assuring myself to include all of the notable things that missed from my first design. 

And so, I ended this new version here (With a bit of rig). I'm still not satisfied with it. The design is still really imperfect and somewhat buggy. But it is a lot closer to what I envisionned for this project. I took it as an opportunity to practice ZBrush more and making something more detailled. 

In the end, this was fun to make, but I still hope I get back on this, restart from scratch and make it something that would be accurate to what I envision.

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Modeling and Rendering done with: Maya/Renderman
Texturing and Sculpt done with: ZBrush
Compositing done with: Nuke
Presentation and title done with: Affinity Photo


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