A small escape pod makes its way through space. Just escaped a battle in which his mother ship, the „Arc Hammer“ was destroyed. Inside a high-ranking officer with secret documents for a combat suit that will change the future of the galaxy. On the documents the letters „Darktrooper 2013″…
Mid of 2019 I’ve received an e-mail inqiery to create a cg charakter for a private person.
I was sceptical, because I get a lot of this kind of e-mails regularly. The most requests come from individuals who underrate the work and aren’t able to finance such a project.
People are spoiled with high end computer graphics every day today, but they don’t really know how much work it still needs to create cg on a movie level. And let be honest: everyone wants a high quality char like in the cinema?
But this situation was different. My client knew, it became time consuming and we agreed on a good price. Additionally I love the Star Wars universe since I was a child and this project was a great way to show my computer graphics competence to the public. In the end I’ve invested more time than needed into this project but it was worth it.
The concept artwork was created by my best friend and great illustrator Daniel Lieske. Daniel is responsible for the worldwide popular graphic novel The Wormworld Saga. If you don’t know it, then you’ve missed an epic story!
I try always to test new techniques when I’m creating a new project, if possible. For this project I’ve sculpted the whole character in 3D-Coat. Especially the hard surface parts like the armor were interesting this time. When the sculpt was ready I started to retopo the first version in 3D-Coat by hand. 3D-Coat offers also an automatic retopo routine, but I haven’t used it this time. After the basic retopo part was ready, I moved to Blender and finished the complete modeling there. Some technical details were added and a lot of corrections were done in Blender.
Badically creating UVs in Blender is as easy as never before. But even if the UV unwrapping in Blender is nice, it’s a bit outdated. The main problem is actually an optimal arrangement of uv islands. So I’ve tested two external Addons for arraning the UVs. First I’ve tried the Shotpacker Addon. It’s a really nice tool and makes it job very well. Because Shotpacker has some bugs in the version I’ve used while the project, I switched to a different UV packing Addon for Blender, it’s called UVpackmaster. I’m really happy with it. The Addon packs UVs like a charm and is really fast. Additionally you have some really professional options, like uv grouping and other cool features.
First I thought about to create the textures in Blender, too. But I’m using the Substance tools and had not much time left, so I’ve done this work in Substance Painter. I try to use every minute to get better into this tool. Creating PBR materials in Substance Painter is pure fun and you save a lot of time.
One of the most tricky parts in creating characters is cloth, in my case it was the cape. I wasn’t sure which was the best way to achieve a well result. The first idea I had, was to sculpt the cape. But I wasn’t sure if the model wouldn’t be animated later, so I decided to use cloth simulation for creating the cloth parts.
Blenders cloth simulation system became much better and got a faster calculation time since the 2.8 update, but the cloth pattern preparation is still a mass… So I started to look for a helper Addon and I found the Garment tool. I’ve bought it and it’s a real game changer for Blender. It saves a lot of time in creating clothes. There is no special new simulation included in the Addon, but the Garment tool helps you create cloth garments much faster and easier then before. But at the end the Addon was not the reason why I switched to Marvelous Designer to create the cloth – the reason was Blenders simulation time. Currently it takes really long to simulate complex high poly clothes and you have less possibilities to control the simulation without restarting it. The Garment tool Addon already makes it a lot easier, but the simulation time in Blender is still the bottleneck. So I installed the Marvelous designer demo version to test it.
Marvelous Designer is a dream for everyone who needs cloth in computer graphics. It uses incredible fast simulation routines and is super easy to work with, I maintain even children can create cloth with Marvelous Designer. So I needed only a few hours to learn Marvelous Designer AND create the cape I wanted. Great!
For humanoid character rigs I’m using the Rigify Addon the most time. It’s completely free and included in Blender by default. You have just to activate it. I’ve used Rigify already for some other projects in the history. The Addon offers complex rigs for different kind of characters. The newest version of the Rigify Addon for Blender 2.8 was optimised again and you can even rig horses or birds. If you look for a fast way to rig a character in Blender, Rigify is the right tool for you.
The weapon is a special element in the Darktrooper project. It looks like a long walking stick, but actually it’s a deadly weapon. There is a system, that transforms the stick into a scythe. The blade is formed by a bended laser beam. It’s a secret development that was first implemented in the Darktrooper 2013 project.
For me it was a cool modeling session. After finishing the scythe model I couldn’t resist and prepared a basic animation rig to transform it to the final shape by animating just one element. A rotation opens the scythe and all needed elements moves out and build the weapon. It works the same backwards to create a walking stick again.
After I was ready with the character it was about time to create the world. The world is just an area that can be seen in the camera view. The side parts, that can’t be seen are not build. This method safes rendering time and the scene keeps small.
The hills are sculpted completely in Blender. The same for the boulders. Actually it’s just one boulder, I’ve scaled it and moved the shape a bit to get more variations. After texturing the elements in Substance Painter, I used Blenders rigid body system to distribute the boulders in the world. This method works great for such things and generates nice natural situations. It’s easy to modify the simulation process and control the end result.
Because we see just tree shiluettes, I’ve used two trees to create the whole vegetation, even the bushes… The trees are created with the Sapling Tree Addon for Blender. This Addon is included in Blender, too and can be used for free.
For the moon I’ve used a simple bitmap and placed it on a flat plane. For the material I’ve used an emitter node, to lighten the scene by the moon a bit.
Texture and material creation
Normally I love to create procedural textures, as often as possible. But in this case I’ve painted all textures in Substance Painter and set a PBR material in Blender for nearly all models. If you want to know how to create a PBR material setting in Blender, please read my short introduction here: How to create a basic PBR material in Blender based on Substance Painter textures or similar.
Even though there are tools like AfterFX that I use myself, I love the compositing system included in Blender. It reminds me of Softimage XSI, that had a great compositor, too. Effects like the darken areas at the sides (Vignette), the glow, some color corrections and masks, all was created in Blender. I really hope there will be more time invested into Blenders compositing system by the Blender Foundation. Actually you can already now do nearly everything. It just have to become faster and needs a better cache system and more GPU support. Then we all will have a strong and free compositing system, directly in Blender!
Used apps and their tasks
The most parts of this project were created in Blender 2.8. I’ve prepared the following list of all the applications, I’ve used for this project:
- Final hard surface modeling
- Additional sculpting
- UVs (UVpackmaster Addon)
- Rigging (Rigify Addon)
- Rigid body simulation
- Landscape, rocks and trees (Sapling Tree Addon)
- Final Compositing
- Conceptional sculpting
- Pre-retopology for final hardsurface modeling in Blender
- Substance Painter
- Marvelous Designer
- Cloth simulation
Screenshots and Insight video
Following you’ll find more screenshots of the project and an insight video.