All the characters that you see in animations are created by modellers manually. They work through every detail and element. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the steps to follow when it comes to character creation.
Over the past decade, in both the film industry and video games, traditional 2D productions have been relegated to independent scenes. While certain 2D technologies are still in use, virtually every big-budget movie or game is dominated by the use of advanced 3D graphics, with character creation being one of the most difficult missions to complete. To design a 3d character, you need a lot of knowledge and skills, as well as practical skills.
Stages of creating 3D characters
Let’s consider in more detail the steps that make up the creation of a 3D character.
It all starts in pre-production with character design. This task is performed by concept artists who work hand in hand with the writers to define the look, personality, and essence of the character. By doing this in 2D, they can afford to do a lot of sketching and testing quickly until they get to the final design.
Before proceeding with the actual creation of the character, the modeler carefully studies the concept art and plans the tools that will be used. Ideally, the concept consists of views from different angles, enlarged plans, and details of the materials of his accessories or props, but some information always escapes. Studying the subject and collecting references will help to fully define the character and achieve more believable results.
When it comes to character building, there are two very different methods:
Polygon modeling, in which the figure is built bit by bit with a high degree of control over each vertex, edge, and polygon. This is done in programs such as Autodesk Maya or 3ds Max.
Digital sculpting in which (as a sculptor does with clay) a block is shaped, engraved, and cut to achieve the desired look. A typical sculpting software is Zbrush.
In recent decades, sculpting has dominated the creation of characters or other organic motifs due to the extremely high level of detail that can be achieved. However, simulation is still preferred for less complex or hard surface objects. The choice in any case remains with the artist.
The high level of detail achieved with sculpting requires a huge amount of polygons. To render or play with a character, it is necessary to reduce its polygonality, as well as follow a certain order and rules that ensure that it functions correctly when animated. This reconstruction is called retopology. If traditional modelling is chosen and provided that it is built using an efficient and correct topology, this step is not required.
UV unwrapping is a short but necessary step before texturing. It is about deploying the geometry of the model for rendering and colouring it in 2D. Its function is to associate image pixels with specific areas of geometry.
The use of textures, in addition to revitalising through colour, gives information about the materials of their skin, clothes, and objects, which gives credibility and variety to the whole. Traditionally this was done with Photoshop on top of a UV map, but now it’s possible to paint directly onto the 3D model in programs such as Adobe Substance 3D Painter and Mari from The Foundry.
Both the resolution and the number of textures or maps vary greatly, and in video games, they are much more limited. These technical aspects are vital to ensure that the model integrates well with the rest of the project.
To show off his work in the best possible way, the modeller will make several quality renders that highlight the qualities of his character, preferably from different angles. You don’t need to be an expert, but have some understanding of image composition, lighting, and render settings.
As you can see, modelling an object or character using 3D is a very difficult task that requires skills and abilities. This is hard work that not everyone can do. And if you want to create your animation, then it is best to contact modellers to work on objects.