How a queue of tooled-up bank robbers was created

People watching was one of the inspirations for 3D artist Song Zhipeng when he created 'Next Please', a patient queue of motley mobsters.

Next please by Song Zhipeng

Click image to enlarge

I have worked as a modeller for the past two years, and this is my latest project. I’ve created a range of good and bad characters to play parts in this robbery scene. As an artist I’m inspired by a huge variety of things, and I love people-watching because it is then that you see the real characters society has to offer.

This project was inspired in particular by watching queues and the way people behave in them. They are an everyday occurrence - at the bank, in the supermarket, at the post office - and yet each one is different and is made up of a huge variety of people.

01. Initial sketches

Song and his friends posed in makeshift costumes in order to create reference photos

Having a good idea about what you want to do is an important part of the process. I spent some time thinking about the way I wanted the final image to look.

Queueing is something that can be seen everywhere in our daily lives, so I wanted to combine the ordinary with something that was out of the ordinary. I made some sketches and also took some photos, to determine the image and poses.

02. Modelling

Song used ZBrush’s DynaMesh tool to model the characters and their faces

In order to improve my working efficiency, I decided to use ZBrush’s DynaMesh for my modelling. This is a fast tool because you can freely modify your model, and make subdivisions without having to worry too much about the grid.

03. Topology

Song was careful to keep the models’ topology clean in ZBrush

I used 3ds Max in conjunction with PolyDraw to organise the topology.
I paid particular attention to keeping the same mesh size, reducing to three-sided faces and avoid producing five-sided surfaces. I used UV Layout to split the UV.

04. Refinements

Producing a clay render in 3ds Max helped with the composition, before Zhipeng moved on to the details

First I put them all into 3ds Max to determine height ratio and observe each character in determining the angle of the camera, to gauge the overall effect. Then each character was separately imported into ZBrush for adjustment and engraving details.

05. Texturing

"A rich texture will add a huge amount to the model," Zhipeng comments

The texturing is a very important part of the process; a rich texture will add a huge amount to the model. I used Photoshop and Mudbox for painting textures and applied three different texture maps to the models: Diffuse, Bump and Specular, with the latter helping to produce the fine details on the models.

06. Lighting

Lighting was designed to spotlight characters while still looking realistic

Once the mapping work is completed, I was ready to start testing the lighting. The texture is tonal and was continuously modified throughout the process.

07. Rendering and adjustment

Zhipeng used rendered layer elements in Photoshop to add depth of field and fog

I used the final render and the layered rendered elements in Photoshop to create the final composition, adding depth of field and fog, and defining overall tone.

Words: Song Zhipeng

This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 175.

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