Vengeance

Character Breakdown

Jake Lamb

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Jake Lamb

Senior Character Artist

Introduction

Who am I?

I’m Jake Lamb I’m a Senior Character Artist at Expression Games. Currently working on Hell Let Loose.

Goals and Project Overview

Having analyzed the portfolios of some of my favorite artists like Frank Tzeng, Liam Grice, Robert Smith, Andrew Ariza and Jamie-lee Lloyd.

I distilled the common skills that all of them share down into specific project goals for me to hopefully achieve a portfolio piece that covers all of these points by the end of the project.

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Project Goals

  • Achieve a High-Quality Likeness
  • Create Realistic and High-Fidelity clothing using Marvelous Designer
  • Maintain Clean Topology
  • Craft a High-Quality Card Groom for Hair and Fur
  • Render Using Unreal Engine 5

In this project, I’ve set out to challenge myself by aiming for a AAA-quality main character model.

To guide me in this endeavor, I’ll be drawing significant inspiration from The Last of Us 2, both in terms of overall quality and technical specifications.

Choosing the Character?

After a long time of scrolling through Pinterest and thinking of my favorite characters from across pop culture, I stumbled upon this image of ‘Drifter’ Bruce Wayne from the 2022 The Batman film.

I felt this was a perfect way to tap into that Naughty Dog style yet not have a character themed in a zombie post-apocalyptic world. It also has a complex groom and awesome layering in the outfit.

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Tools

  • PureRef
  • ZBrush
  • Marvelous Designer
  • Maya
  • Photoshop
  • Substance Painter
  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Sampler
  • Marmoset Toolbag 4

Reference Gathering

Below is how I gathered references for my Character.

Likeness References

Finding accurate references is a key step to producing an accurate likeness. For actors and actresses, taking screenshots from films they were in at the rough time you are looking to capture their likeness from is a good place to start.

Further pictures from red carpets photographed by Getty Images can often be taken from different or hard-to-find angles that can help to build a comprehensive overview of the subject.

As many red carpet images are taken with the same camera, they often have the same field of view and settings which prevent warping of the face due to different camera settings.

Finally, you can check Pinterest, Google, and Instagram to obtain as many images as possible. Here is a selection of the images found for Pattinson.

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Following this, I pick out the best images from the ones found and add them to a second board.

The reason for the second board is to not swamp yourself with too many references from differing periods and focal lengths, which can affect the quality of the likeness.

The main reference board should be an overview of the feeling and era you are looking to capture. Some of the main angles I tend to focus on gathering are front-facing, centered images, 3/4 profile images, and side profile images.

These images are what I use to overlay onto my base mesh. Here’s a look at my key reference board for Pattinson.

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Outfit References

For a project like this, I like to be as faithful as I can to the actual outfit/props in the film. Which usually means hours spent scrolling through RPF forums and cosplayer sites to find the exact props used.

I also focus on grabbing screenshots from the film to try and pick up on any movie-specific wear and tear unique to the outfit from the film.

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Hair References

Below are some references of Robert Pattinson’s hair.

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Blockout

For the blockout, I used a mixture of ZBrush, Marvelous Designer, Photoshop, and Maya. When blocking out, I like to keep things loose and open to change. I also like to get things into Marmoset as soon as possible to constantly check how the final result is looking.

Blockout

For the blockout, I used a mixture of ZBrush, Marvelous Designer, Photoshop, and Maya. When blocking out, I like to keep things loose and open to change.

I also like to get things into Marmoset as soon as possible to constantly check how the final result is looking.

Outfit Blockout

For the outfit, I modified the meta-human base mesh to have a more neutral pose and a build that resembled Roberts.

After doing an initial pass, I decided to throw it in Marmoset to see how it was looking.

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After not being overly happy with this result, I received some feedback from my friend Lou Squara and with this feedback of “Rushing and moving too fast,” I was able to focus again and push the Marvelous Designer stage much further to a result I was happy with.

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Likeness Blockout & Full breakdown

Where do I start?

I started my likeness by using the male 38 HD head from the 3D Scan Store as I think these heads give me the best results.

For the initial pass, I don’t like to go any further than SubDiv 1 or 2 at this stage.

As it allows me to focus on the overall forms and proportions of the face.
The full breakdown of my process on likenesses can be found here.

Hair Cards

There are several methods of making hair cards and textures; however, I will briefly talk through my methods of creating hair textures and then placing cards in Maya.

Important tip: Hair card textures are an iterative process not just a step.

Hair Textures

For creating textures, I draw a lot from my experience as a Junior Groom Artist.

I start by observing some clumps on the hair I wish to portray and also draw some clumps that I like to work with to create this style of hair. As a rule, I like to draw around 16-24 cards; in this example, I have drawn 24.

This allows me to have a great range and variety in my cards therefore making a more realistic groom. The first map I draw is an ID map.

This is done by turning on Color Dynamics and setting the color jitter to 100% in the brush settings.

Then I like to set my color as a bright green.

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Once I have the ID map, I then create all my other textures from this using various filters and Adjustment layers.

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Once I have my first pass on the textures, I move to Maya to start placing cards.

In Maya, I create a key card sheet which is one of each of the hair cards laid out which I use to pick cards from when I’m first making my clumps.

When Placing these cards and clumps, I keep my spans at around 3-4 and use smooth preview. I do this so the cards are more easily manipulated and are limited to more gestural movements.

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I also will bring in a decimated volume sculpt of the hair I wish to make which I use as a rough guide.

At first, I make 1 or 2 clumps and place them around the head to create the basic shape and silhouette.

After several back-and-forths with the textures, I then do a test export into UE 5 to test how the cards look.

From here, I will just go in and add more breakup and variance using the fly-away and thin cards to add a final layer of variation and general break-up.

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If you’re curious about the methodology for placing cards, my old lead Hywel Evans has a great breakdown of this found here.

Highpoly

For me, the transition between blockout and Highpoly is very fluid as I work very iteratively with the result. However, for the garment, the major separation for me is moving from Marvelous Designer to ZBrush.

My preferred method of getting garments from Marvelous Designer to ZBrush is the transfer attributes method which is well-documented here.

Once in ZBrush, I like to keep things fairly minimal as Marvelous Designer should do the heavy lifting on clothing. My High poly pass involves Seams (no stitching), wear and tear, Memory folds, and slight silhouette adjustments.

Below are images from Marvelous Designer and the Highpoly.

Lowpoly

For the lowpoly, it was a bunch of simple yet time-consuming rounds using the Maya quad draw tool. While trying to make sure to support the silhouette where possible.

The budget for this body model is a self-decided 60k tris. Which ended up being around 58k when all was said and done.

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Texturing

The texturing stage for me is a very iterative back-and-forth between the engine and Substance Painter. I usually throw rough color on and then move immediately to the engine.

I then export to the engine at regular intervals in micro adjustments so I am constantly checking the final result, I will not be presenting the model in Substance Painter so I don’t rely heavily on its viewport as a representation of the final model.

I try my best to ignore how things look in Substance Painter and tweak things depending on how the textures look in a correct lighting setup and plugged into a shader.

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Presentation

For the presentation of this model, I wanted to go for a behind-the-scenes screen test vibe. As I felt this fit the vibe of the character and I also just liked those early promotional shots for the film.

To achieve this look, I used a free pack of film set pieces from the Unreal marketplace and some materials from the Bridge app to create a scene.

For the lighting, I followed the vein of the behind-the-scenes reference photos; however, I adjusted them slightly to show off the face.

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Here are the renders emulating the screen test vibe.

To Wrap Up

This Project overall was around 3 months of free time and weekends. When looking back was maybe a tad rushed for a project of this scope, however, that is just one of the several lessons I’m taking with me from this project and into the next.

This project was a real test for me in many aspects and I would like to thank those who helped push this project to where it is today.

As without the help of people such as Lou Squara, Hamish Bryant, Andreea Scubli and Del Walker.

This project would not have turned out the way it did. As for the future stay tuned on my ArtStation profile for the next project! Links can be found here.