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Stanislav Klabik: CG for Life
 
 
Posted: Dec 01, 2009
Published by: the area
Homepage: Visit the page
Software: Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Mudbox
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The Area:
Ahoj Mr. Klabik, glad to have you here with us on the AREA, to share your awesome images and your passion. So, some of us know your work - Batman, Lobo, Clint Eastwood, old man…truly amazing, especially the level of realism!! Can you tell us how long you have been doing CG?
Stanislav:
Hi, thanks for this opportunity to be here, and to tell you a bit more about my work : ) Well, is has been five years since I started doing CG.
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The Area:
Which applications did you first use?
Stanislav:
I started with 3ds Max and Photoshop, and I still using them as my primary applications today.
The Area:
When you were starting out to do 3D, what was the most frustrating part?
Stanislav:
I decided to do CG on my own during my studies in language school. Finally I started freelancing in September 2005, a year after my first experience with 3ds Max. I had just finished language school and I didn’t want to be unemployed, but I also didn’t want to do any other work than CG. A month prior, I had wrapped up my first commercial job, which was originally supposed to only be a test of my skills. I was a bit naive to think that everything would be easy with the limited portfolio that I had, so for the next three months I was without work -- this was a little bit frustrating. I spent all my free time on doing CG stuff to find clients, and after those three months, I met a client who provided me with work that was not too demanding on my time. I was still able to work on my own stuff instead of working only for money. I spent almost 3/4 of every year doing my personal projects instead of earning money : D I always kept it on my mind that I need really good work for my portfolio, because I started not too long ago and I didn’t think there were a lot of people who had a solid portfolio after just one year of doing CG.
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The Area:
Did you have any background in the arts..if not, what did you plan on doing after you finished school?
Stanislav:
Well, sort of. I was and still am really interested in comic art, which has been the case since I was ten years old. I collected comic books, really enjoyed reading them, but what always interested me the most were the drawings. My favourite artists were Val Semeiks, Brian Bolland and Simon Bisley. Their skills were great, so I started to draw comic pictures or characters that I saw on photos, or tried to reproduce their works. This took almost all of my free time till the time I got my first PC during the last month of highschool, then three months later I got acquainted with CG : ) After highschool, I decided to do language school, because it’s good to know the English language a bit more and of course, this school really suit me well… which meant I had a lot of time to work on the PC : )
The Area:
Now, lets talk about LOBO! This image is so hardcore, in many respects: level of complexity of the scene for modeling, texturing, and rendering, the graphic components in the overall image, and the emotions when looking at the image as a whole. It's a powerful and visceral piece of work.. what was the reason to create this image -- was it commissioned work for comic art?
Stanislav:
Thanks for your nice words, appreciate it. I basically just took one of my comic books with great artwork from Rafael Garrés on its cover page and said, "It would be really fun to create this in 3D" and that was it : ) Since I am a comic fan I wanted to do some comic tribute art and primarily to the best comic character ever created : )
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Hope I won’t come off sounding like some big-headed moron, but I had also wanted to do a project which would be the most complicated scene that any single artist had ever created -- and not in only one aspect, but in all aspects. I mean modeling, lightning, texturing, whole feeling of the image; the project would be violent, bloody and creepy, but on the other hand it would make people laugh through hidden references or with funny violent moments like a guy on the toilet, Judge Dredd hung on the bars by the hook in his head (reference to "Lobo goes to Hollywood" book) and so on. Yes, I am probably perverse to find it funny, I know : D but finally, I am really satisfied with the result.

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I am not a fan of commercial heroes who are so good and wholesome that it make me nauseated : D You know, the ones who help everybody…they’re handsome, honest and so on. With Lobo, he is a badass galactic antihero with big muscles who does only what he wants to do and cares for no one. Also he carries around really cool things like a chain with the hook on his right arm which makes everyone really smile from ear to ear. Another character who is cool in a similar way, but in a positive regard is Duke Nukem.

The Area:
If I may ask, who is Zdeňka, to whom the image has been dedicated to?
Stanislav:
Zdeňka Klabíková is my mother, she died during the process of creation of this image so I couldn’t imagine a better way how to express what she meant and still means to me, than to dedicate the whole length of time, work and everything that I put into this project -- in her memory. You can probably imagine how happy I was, when I was told that Lobo would be included in the Elemental book, together with this dedication. So I am always happy when I take a look at this book and see her name.
The Area:
How did you proceed to create this image, or any of your images.. do you do some rough sketches to plan it out? and in LOBO’s case, there were so many parts to it, lots of dirt and pieces in the cell.. did you run into any problems along the way? its not small work to model all those bits..
Stanislav:
I used only the artwork from Rafael Garrés. I knew that this wasn’t going to be enough, so most of the image is from my head. I don’t use any sketches or plans during the creation of my projects, I don’t like to work in this manner. I just work, work and work – then I step back to imagine how good this part could be or what about that part…how this new element would work or not…and so on. When I worked on this project, I thought about it all the time, every moment during the day I was thinking about what I could improve, what I could add, what would look cool or what not, etc.

I must say that this was the most enjoyable period of time in my CG life, because with the stylized comic art you can do crazy things. My favourite Lobo interpretation is from Val Semeiks, he draws like a genius and puts lot of hidden or visible stuff which refers to real people, movies, other comics and more. So I tried to do this in the same manner -- you can find references to Shawshank Redemption, The Simpsons, Superman, Judge Dredd, Friday the 13th and the rivalry between DC comics and Marvel…because Lobo is a DC guy and the second prisoner is a Marvel guy, try to guess why he had to go : ), and also I wanted to show that Lobo is the most punishing, hard and unsympathetic character in the entire universe who can easily dispose of even Judge Dredd or Jason Vorhees : ) I also wanted to put some stuff which would illustrate how sick I am of politics, but decided that politicians aren’t good enough to waste being put into one cell together with Lobo : ) Modeling this floor or the wall was really fun, but I was limited only by the workstation, so everything was divided up into pieces and then merged together or used as a VRay proxy.
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The Area:
The blood on his arms are especially gory and hyper realistic.. what did you do to create that? Can you tell us how you modeled the buildup of blood and also the shader used?
Stanislav:
I sculpted the blood directly from his arms, then I detached this geometry as a single mesh. I created a new material layer on his body to make the blood that would cover the places where the 3D blood had been placed on his hands so it would look like it was all one single mesh. This was the better way to produce this result, instead of using displacement which would eat up a lot of RAM…and my workstation needed every megabyte available. Photoshop was used for painting the blood layer. The shader is a VRay material with SSS on, but since this project was comic art and in comics, all blood is exaggerated …even bloody muscles, I did some tweaks in post-production to make the SSS effect more visible.
The Area:
How long did you spend to make this image?
Stanislav:
I started in September 2006 and ended in November 2007 : ) Most of the time I was limited with my workstation, which meant limitations in the applications and so on. During this project I had to switch to a 64-bit system, but those millions of polygons together with hundreds of textures (around 450), where the smallest one was around 2000px and most of them were between 4000-7000px was really problematic while I was performing tests. Originally I had wanted to do this project in Maxwell, but in the middle of the process, I switched over to VRay, which I had used for the first time. Every test was truly hell to render…to see how the textures, effects or models worked. Finally I used VRay proxies and texture proxies to render the whole image into regions which I then merged together in Photoshop. This workflow still consumed around 5GB of RAM so I can only guess how many gigabytes this scene would have taken as a single render job. From the beginning, I wanted to render this scene to print resolution, so that’s why I used high res textures. But I would have probably used the same resolution of textures, even in the case of a lower render resolution, because middle res or low res pictures can hold much more information detail even when they’ve been downsized from a higher resolution. Also, since I don’t like tricks and fakes, the smoke from his cigar is also 3D -- I used FumeFX, which is a really great tool.
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The Area:
Your next project was Batman. Most of us have had the pleasure of seeing your Making-of -- where you showed the bodybuilding reference images, explained how you achieved the musculature detail on your interpretation of Bruce Wayne's alter ego, and covered the render setup you used -- with 3ds Max, Mudbox and VRay. Can you tell us the time you spent sculpting and how long it took to put the image together?
Stanislav:
I spent around two days with the first sculpt and pose, but then I spent many days to tweak the details, pose and so on. Since I am used to changing my mind during the process of creation, I always spend a lot of time with trying and reworking things. Altogether I spent around one month on this project, because I still changed some things around, like testing what would be the best method of presentation for this model cause I don’t like screengrabs from application viewports – even if I present only the model, I want to present him in great quality.
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The Area:
Far and Away could easily pass as a photo, because you don't even think, "Where is the CG in this image". In fact, this is a rendering of an elderly man, who is fully 3D. First off -- how did you create his clothes? The hat! The scarf.. you even modeled the little balls of fluff that manifest when the fabric starts to wear…
Stanislav:
When the artist Greg Petchkovsky published his great artwork called "Bunny is tired" he wrote that he used ML decorate plugin (created by the people from Monkey Lab I think) which allows you to deform geometry using uvw coordinates from a source object. So from the detailed flat hat geometry, you can get detailed geometry which can be deformed as a base low-poly mesh. This plugin is probably no longer available for Max versions above 9, but during the "Julia Roberts" project where I used this plugin again and my WIP saw people from Slidelondon, one of them was Walther Grophius who wrote the script for a newer version of Max called Slideknit -- this script is the same, only a little bit slower and you can download it from their website. I must say that this makes me really happy to see how artists are helping each other out by doing such tools. In my personal experience, there can be a lot of bad things in the CG community which I won’t go into, but this always keeps me believing that there are still lots of great people out there.
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His scarf is modeled using displacement, I only did a base geometry and then created displacement maps. His clothing is soft-looking in the real world, so I used a fast skin shader which provided me that soft look, but it wouldn’t be right without some added fur, so I scattered three types of fur to cover the whole cloth geometry. For the scarf, the fur is bigger than the rest of his cloths and everything is with the fast skin material applied. This was my first use of mental ray and I found that a lot of geometry and a lot of polygons aren’t good together with the fast skin material, but since this wasn’t an animation, it really wasn’t a problem to spend more time with the rendering. The balls of fluff are the details that can really push you work forward -- they are small, but it really improves the quality because the sense for details is important in CG.

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The Area:
I understand that an actual image of this man exists, which is what you used as reference when creating your own 'old man'. You have really captured the accuracy in replicating the subject of the image, and have raised the bar yet again, for yourself and all of us. Tell us, what was the most challenging part in making this piece?
Stanislav:
Yeah, this man exists, I found him really interesting -- his face and his expression, so that’s why I created him in 3D. But the fact is that I only wanted to create him as a skill test, and nothing more than that…no deep ideas or something of that sort. When I published him, I discovered that there were already some artists who had tried to create him and I had no idea that this old man was such a famous and popular character. I guess it would be interesting to know what this man is up to now. Anyway, the most challenging part was the skin shader, and getting the outdoor sun light to work properly together with the skin shader. But I must say that since a year has passed when I made this piece, the skin can be significantly improved upon, because this was my first time using mental ray and I was happy with the results at the time, but nowadays I still think about reworking the skin shader using my present-day knowledge. This is always a problem with old works, but I have one rule since I began drawing comics in my childhood -- that I must not rework old works : )
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The Area:
How long did you spend on this?
Stanislav:
This project took me again around a month or so, I am not sure because I worked on him in my free time.
The Area:
Your latest work, Clint Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway in Heartbreak Ridge is absolutely breathtaking. Simple-looking scene, but it is far from it. The subtle attention to detail on Clint's facial expression, his uniform, the lighting.. so many things for the eye to see! Which version of Mudbox did you use for sculpting? What did you use to paint the textures?
Stanislav:
Thanks for your words, well I am still using Mudbox 1.07 (don’t laugh :D), because I’ve personally found that this version works best for me, I use Mudbox 2009 only for exporting displacement.

But since I found that the displacement didn’t fit my needs and that the bump wasn’t working well at sharp angles, I always use the high poly mesh, complete with all of the details sculpted for the still renders. I must say thanks to Håkan "Zap" Andersson who created several fast skin modifications for the CG community to improve the quality of mental ray shaders. Textures were painted in Photoshop as usual.
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The Area:
What was most problematic when doing this scene?
Stanislav:
Most problematic was the skin shader again, I wanted to push the quality forward so I did a lot of testing, but absolutely most problematic was to find what badges, awards and medals Clint had on his uniform. Since I am not skilled in army award stuff, I spent a lot of time searching for pictures of his medals. I also watched this movie a thousand times to see everything which was needed for this project, but since I really like this movie, this wasn’t a problem. What was problematic was only the fact that Clint Eastwood look totally different in every minute of this film : D
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The Area:
What kind of lighting setup did you use?
Stanislav:
I created everything in actual scale so I built up the quarters for his platoon using movie shots, I made the same windows and then placed all the lights where needed. I also used lights to simulate bulb lights in this room. The whole room was rendered in VRay, because I didn’t want to learn interior renderings in mental ray. For the whole character, I used mental ray again, because the mental skin shader is still the best in my opinion. I placed the lights in the way as they were in the real world, for example, lights to simulate sky light from the windows and the light for the warm bulb tone. I used Final Gather and Global Illumination, so for this purpose I placed an environment around the character to act as a nice light bounce. I also did post-production to improve the lightning and added additional lighting effects.
The Area:
What was the timeline for doing this image?
Stanislav:
I spent around a month on this work again, but before that, I spent two months with shader tests. I was pissed off with the results at the beginning, so I abandoned this project for two or three months and then kind of got back to test the different settings, heads, scenes, etc., after which I then returned to this project and finished it.
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The Area:
I understand that you are working freelance, what are some of the gigs you have worked on?
Stanislav:
My work consists of everything, so I’ve done commercials for TV, advertisements, product design, visualizations and more. But the characters that I did for Blur Studio as freelance are the kind of jobs that I like the most. The characters for the “Dragon Age: Origins” cinematics were really enjoyable to do.
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The Area:
What is your standard set of applications for your work and what is your computer setup?
Stanislav:
I use 3ds Max, Photoshop, Mudbox, and for the rendering I use VRay, mental ray or Maxwell. My Computer? Well, I don’t want to be a big embarrassment so I will only say that my workstation is really bad, but I plan to upgrade it. I’ve planned it for almost two years now, so you can wish me good luck : D
The Area:
Seeing your short Clint Eastwood animated clip made me wish there was more :)) Your character work is phenomenal -- do you have any plans to make any animated short films in the future with them?
Stanislav:
I had intended to do some short animation of him from the beginning, so I built a facial rig and some morph targets, but scene was too complex for animation rendering and I don’t like to do compromises which result in lesser quality. So I only did this simple animation and I must say that I like it, better than what I expected : )
The Area:
What are your plans for the future, will you continue to freelance or would you consider working for a studio at home or abroad?
Stanislav:
It is hard to say, I like freelancing. You can work from the place you like and you can better manage your work plan. But my vision is to probably work in the US – I think that the best CG is in this country, and companies like ILM, Blur, Blizzard and many others I could name. In Europe, there are companies that are great in the same way as those in US too though, so who knows. But what I do know is that I love doing CG and the most enjoyable thing to me is to work on another personal project, so I think that I will continue to do CG for the rest of my life -- even as a hobby.
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The Area:
Stanislav, thanks for the opportunity to talk about your work and we hope to see more of it in the future – good luck :)
Stanislav:
I thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about my work more deeply, about the background of every project and about what CG means to me, really appreciate it.

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Newest users comments View All 25 Comments
Posted by enginyoltay on Feb 16, 2012 at 08:13 AM
woooow....amazing:D
Posted by rathson on Dec 03, 2011 at 03:04 AM
this is great i love clothes, but aren't they high dense, does it slow down scene ?
Posted by G-poy on Oct 27, 2011 at 10:43 AM
really.. beyond my comprehension right now.
Posted by Legend_King on Jun 30, 2011 at 07:12 AM
I made request about tutorials did anyone notice ?
Posted by the-outsider on Jun 28, 2011 at 02:54 PM
woooow!!!! excellent work, I'm impressed!!! :)