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Spotted Eagle Ray
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Spotted Eagle Ray

Apolline Koehrer
by Apolline on 25 Apr 2024

Small personal project of a spotted Eagle Ray image, showing a large number of production stages.

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Hey everyone ! I'll show you my workflow to carry out this 3-day small personal project I made during my 2nd year of CG studies. 

I made this small project to see how to make an underwater scene, as well as to make a complete project, from modeling to texturing and rigging to final composited image.

Software used : Maya and Zbrush for sculpting, Substance for texturing, Renderman for lighting/rendering and Nuke for compositing.

#1 - References

The first step was to look for references that would help me through each stage of the process.

So I searched for modeling references, looking for different angles : top, bottom, profile, and some close-ups on important areas like the head.

I also looked for images that would help me for the texture as well as for the underwater atmosphere

#2 - Sculpt

Following the references I'd found, I modeled the ray in a neutral pose taking care to keep an accurate topology.

#3 - UV

Since I won't be doing any close-ups, I've unfolded the UV on 1 udim in 4K (there's already the texture applied on my model on this screenshot, don't worry it's the next step!)

#4 - Texture 

Once my model was ready, I switched to ZBrush to make the Displacement. Then, I switched to Substance to paint my textures. Following my references, I made the Base Color, some bump details, the rougness & specular maps.

#5 - Lookdev

Then I returned to Maya and Renderman for the lookdev. I used a PxrLayerSurface to plug in my textures and add layers of detail, particularly in the speculars.

#6 - Rigging

I built a fairly basic skeleton in the shape of a cross to match the shape of the ray as closely as possible.

The most important thing was that it could make very rounded movements. So I added controllers at different levels to give maximum control over the rotations. I also added attributes and automatic bend and wave on the fins & tail.

#7 - Animation & rendering 

Thanks to the rig, I created a little swimming animation which I used to make a turn with the shader.

#8 - Lighting & Rendering

I made a fairly basic ligthing with a relatively blue domelight that I created from a sky HDRI that I retouched. I added a keylight to fake the sun shining through the water, a fill light to get a reflection in its left eye and a little light reflecting from below, then a rim light to silhouette its right fin and get a little reflection in its right eye.

#9 - Compositing

I made the whole ocean environnment with Nuke.

I mixed different color gradient ramps to create my ocean base, following references to  obtain a coherent gradation of blues and light to dark shades

 Then, I projected details onto cards placed in depth in the 3D nuke scene.

I created an atmosphere thanks to Renderman's depth map, which I normalized to create this aspect of depth (the rear fins & tail gradually fade away). I also created a DOF using my depth map.

I  added a light source, matching what I had rendered, to create godrays in the depth.

Finally, I did some grading on my image to beautify it, and added physical details such as chromatic aberration and vignetting.

#10 - Final image

It was a small project that gave me an overview of the production stages, and it was very interesting to achieve in 3 days.

I hope you liked it ! Have a nice day :)


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