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Behind the Scenes: Skater Antelope

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About

Hi, I’m Matt Curtis. I am an artist, engineer, and adventurer living in Denver, Colorado. When I’m not translating the weird ideas from my head into 3D, I’m usually doing stuff in the mountains, playing board games, or learning new (usually useless) skills.

I started learning CG in 2017 with an interest in making simulations but quickly realized that it required far more computer power than I had and that I was more interested in modeling, texturing, and rendering anyway. Like most Blender users, I am internet-taught and owe my skills to the countless generous creators that make courses and share their knowledge with the community.

Over the course of my time as a 3D artist, I have mostly focused on character creation, typically sticking to a general look of stylized realism that shows up in most of my renders. Having done some freelance work in the past, I think it would be amazing to make CG art into a more lucrative job, but in the meantime, I am having fun working on personal projects and learning new tools like Houdini!

 
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Motivation and Inspiration

There seem to be some artistic ideas that really stick in my head until I commit to working through them. Something that I’ve been wanting to explore for a long time is the idea of music-driven, side-scrolling, looping character animation. This skating antelope dude is set to be the subject of the first of these animations, and I hope to keep doing them until I get the pleasing result I’m looking for.

The goal for this project is to make a character whose actions work in perfect synchronization with a song. I think my attraction to this concept stems from things like ski films and parkour edits, which combine music and stylish movement in a way that just feels so nice on the eyes.

I’m using a typical ‘production’ style workflow for this project, trying my best to do everything properly to make a nice portfolio piece and just for my own practice as well:

References

I use PureRef to put together a reference board before I start modeling. For a stylized character like this, I try to gather both real-life photographic reference as well as 2D and 3D character design inspiration.

Sculpting, retopology, and UVs

All modeling was done in Blender. For sculpting, I have almost exclusively been using the voxel remesh workflow, then doing retopology and transferring sculpt details to multiresolution. Big thanks to Pablo Dobarro for his work fixing multires and massively improving Blender sculpting in general. For UVs, I find the UV Packmaster addon very useful for packing islands. In the future, I would like to try out the newly implemented UDIM support in Blender—and I’ve also heard great things about Rizom UV software so I may be trying that out soon, too.

Texturing and shading

All texturing for this project was done in Substance Painter with three 4K PBR texture sets (body, skates, and accessories). As someone who is guilty of often leaning on SP’s smart masks and materials, I got a lot of solid painting practice on this character with the color details of the antelope fur and horns.

Shading was done in Blender with Principled and Principled Hair BSDF setups. An interesting problem that I came across was the strange smearing effect that occurs when using the same texture for both the fur and the underlying skin.

Grooming

This was my first time grooming fur rather than long hair in Blender. There are definitely a lot of shortcomings to Blender’s particle hair system in general, but it gave me the control I needed to get a nice result. I learned a lot about efficient grooming techniques, like how to properly use parent hair interpolation when placing and combing. I look forward to seeing the overhaul of Blender particles that it sounds like we’ll be getting in the coming years.

Rigging

I rigged this character completely in Blender using Rigify. Before this project, I thought that Rigify was mainly used for its pre-built human and animal metarigs, and had no idea that it is actually a fully-fledged modular rigging system. After learning all about how powerful Rigify is and how to use it, I made a custom rig that includes controls for a bouncing backpack, swinging earbud chords, and an automated system for lifting the long shirt to avoid clipping into the legs.

Animation

After doing some test posing and rendering I’ve now moved on to the animation, which I imagine will be the most difficult part. I still haven’t quite chosen all of the character’s actions or how I will approach the environment, so I’m starting with a simple skate cycle, which should be showing up on my Instagram soon. Thanks for looking!

About the Author

Matt Curtis, 3D Generalist

 

 

 

 

About Author

Abby Crawford

I've been a part of the BlenderNation team since 2018, producing Behind the Scenes and Meet the Artist features that highlight Blender artists and their work.

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