Modeling Mkali

By - - 3ds Max , Arnold , Flame , Maya , MotionBuilder , Mudbox , Shotgun
Last modification: 20 Apr, 2021

Welcome back! Ready to meet our heroine? This week, Jacques Dell, Australian-based CG artist, brings Mkali to life using Maya and Mudbox. See first iterations of the character model, and get a glimpse inside the team's collaborative spirit and resiliency during difficult times. Let's get into it!

Joining us for the first time?
We’re producing an epic 3D sequence called Mkali’s Mission using each of the tools in the Media & Entertainment Collection and sharing the whole journey right here on AREA. Take a look back at earlier blog posts in this series to learn more. 

When it came time to find an artist to model our main character Mkali, the Maya team recommended I reach out to Jacques Dell, an artist based in Australia. At first, I was slightly concerned that our 15-hour time difference would pose a challenge, but I was determined to make it work. Jacques was a seasoned artist with a long list of high-profile movies under his belt. He’s also worked on a few Autodesk projects in the past, so I was keen on having him join the team.

After a few calls with Jacques, he expressed a strong interest in working on Mkali’s Mission. Once I shared the concept art and the storyboard with him, he raised some interesting questions. One question particularly concerned whether I would be hiring a grooming artist to work on Mkali’s hair. In most productions such as this one, it is common to have a grooming specialist create the hair on models. This was something I had not thought about at the time, but I was fortunate to have artists like Jacques on the team to share their expertise and bring their real-world experiences to the table. While we decided to hire a grooming artist later in the pipeline, we still had Jacques model Mkali’s hair as a stand-in for the time being. He would go on modeling Mkali using Maya and other assets like her boots and binoculars in Mudbox.


First iterations of Mkali. Modeled in Maya. 


First iterations of Mkali's gear (hand grenade, glove, watch, boot). Modeled in Mudbox. 


There were a lot of moving pieces during this stage, so we communicated regularly to make sure we stayed on track. Jacques started working closely with Adrian Wise, the artist modeling the snowmobile, as their models would be interacting with one another in the sequence. Setting up meetings became challenging with Adrian in the UK, Jacques in Australia, and myself in the US. However, once they both got to work, the time differences ended up working in their favor – if Jacques was working on the model and needed updated files from Adrian, his request would be sitting in Adrian’s inbox who was just starting his workday. We also set up regular meetings with Charles Wardlaw, our rigging artist to ensure that he would be able to work with Mkali's character model. 


Meeting with Adrian (top left) and Jacques (bottom) on modeling the snowmobile and Mkali.


Meeting with Jacques (top left) and Charles (bottom) on modeling Mkali.


With the surge of coronavirus cases in Melbourne, it became increasingly challenging for Jacques to work from home. Lockdown restrictions were put into place and, like many parents, he found himself having to juggle work and homeschooling his children. Lockdown went on for many months causing delays in the project, but with admirable resilience, Jacques managed to deliver a great model of Mkali.


Curious to see his workflow? See Jacques in action below! 

 Jacques modeling Mkali's uniform in Maya. 


  Jacques sculpting detail on Mkali's model in Mudbox.


Model of Mkali made in Maya. 

Want to see more of Mkali's Mission? Visit our virtual animation studio to discover the different stages of the process and to get a glimpse at some real 3D eye candy.



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Published In
  • 3ds Max
  • Arnold
  • Flame
  • Maya
  • MotionBuilder
  • Mudbox
  • Shotgun
  • Film & VFX
  • Games
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