Now I think it goes without saying, but I'm a pretty massive Star Wars fan. I fall right into that cliché category of people who saw Star Wars at a very young age and had their whole career path kind of defined by the film. But I really can not say the newest addition of films to this universe had the same emotional impact on me. So in an effort of doing rather than complaining about things, I just thought it would be fun to create my own little fan project.
– Soren Zaragoza, Character Artist
– "BOUNTY HUNT PROCESS VIDEO" TRANSCRIPT –
I didn't know at the time exactly what I'd be creating, other than the vague idea of taking the well established Star Wars universe into a more mature R-rated setting. So while exploring this idea, when you actually look at the original Star Wars, you can already see that there are some fairly mature elements in place. Seeing Luke's aunt and uncle getting burned alive, it's a pretty gruesome way to depict how dangerous living in this universe can actually be. Later on, Obi-Wan slices up a guys hand in Cantina, and you actually see blood, you actually see the gruesomeness of a lightsaber cut.
To me, there already are elements in place we can explore in pursuing this R-rated Star Wars concept. With that direction being clearly set for whatever reason, the first thing that came to mind was an old N64 game called Shadows of the Empire. The protagonist in the game is this guy called Dash Rendar, his last name is a bit funny if you're a 3D artist, I know, but he is basically an off-shoot character of Han Solo. He's a smuggler, his sidekick and co-pilot is a droid called Leebo, and what Boba Fett is to Han, 8t88 is to Dash Rendar. Yep, 8t88, remember that guy that appears for two seconds in Empire?
Anyway, this cast of characters is what inspired the concept for Bounty Hunt, and at this point, the direction was clear to me and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell a simple story of a successful Bounty hunt, and depict the gruesome gory outcome up close and personal. Keeping it very simple and achievable we would have only one long shaft showing the deadly aftermath. And that shot would be intercut by the preceding space battle. To support this more mature tone, the look that I was after was really dark, complimented by the use of red color as our primary color across all of the scenes, conveying the sense of hate and the sense of death.
So, your concept works on paper now, but what you really need to do next is test it out in form of either storyboards or previews, and I can not really stress the importance of doing your previews correctly and devoting some time to it. This is the moment when you are making your film. If your film works at this rough stage, it will work later on when you have all the assets nicely produced.
Now what you need to be focusing on in this stage is doing things as efficiently as possible, which means finding as many resources as you can to make your life easier. Luckily I was able to find all of these models on sites like Google SketchUp, and just spending a bit of time working with simple scene lighting and simple effects goes a long way into making your previews convey your ideas more clearly.
Another important thing I tend to focus on while working on any previews is devoting a good chunk of time to find a Tem track that fits the project's tone. Much like with your assets, this is all of course going to be replaced by a custom track if you're working with a composer, but having the music and sound roughly placed really helps solve the idea much more clearly. For this previews, I used a track from Warhammer, Dawn of War II, which is just one of my favorite game trailers. And although it did present us with this challenge, I absolutely love what my friend and composer, Iz Svemira did with the final track.
So, I'm going to show you the final previews now, and we'll take it from there.
Now that I've convinced myself the concept actually works, it's just a matter of finding collaborators to fill in the gaps in your production. Now the question you might ask is how do you just find collaborators? And the answer is, it takes time. It does not happen overnight. In fact, it will most likely be years. But if you keep producing personal work that inspires, people will eventually want to join you and work with you.
Visiting one of many art festivals is definitely a good place to start, there you'll likely meet like-minded people with similar goals, and that is actually how this collaboration happened. I've met Soren Zaragoza at last years ICC, and after talking for a while he really wanted to help on this project. Soren is an amazing 3D concept artist and a sculptor, and just an amazing person in general. 'So Soren buddy, I wanted to thank you now for devoting your time for this project man. I could not have done this without you.'
So here we are finally in the production section. At this point, your previews and your concept is working, all your collaborators are on board, and pretty much all of your creative decisions have been made, so it's just a matter of kicking back and playing some music and modeling every asset you have. You'll notice here there's like a green background model that's just one of the models, one of the free models I found, and I use this to kind of gauge the scale, the rough scale and the rough proportions of the model. I also have a two monitor setup, so I usually have all my image references on the other monitor, so I have something to look at while modeling.
And at this point, like this is just the rough blocking stage, you're just focusing on nailing the proportions and nailing the major silhouettes and the major forms. Once your block out is finished, you can just go in and add detail where needed, and just finish your asset piece by piece. I made everything SUbD because I wanted to use ZBrush and Substance Painter later on, and I wanted to have clean UV's. You don't have to do it, but that's just something I wanted to try out for this project. And you'll notice I'm not the greatest modeler for anybody that knows 3D, you'll see that I hide things where ever I can just make do with what I have.
And again, I know pretty much what my lighting will be in the scene, so I know I won't be seeing much of the asset anyway, so that's why I'm just kinda focusing on having the overall shapes and silhouettes there and not going crazy with detail. As for the technique itself, I'm really not doing anything crazy here. This is just your standard polygon modeling, just adding your support loops where needed for subdivisions later on. I use all the tools that ship straight out of Max, the only script that I used is called Regularized Edge Loops. It's a free script that you can find on ScriptSpot, and it just kind of creates a circle out of your polygon selections.
Now when you're modeling stuff like this, at one point you'll definitely get discouraged but you really need to be keeping your end goal in mind, and you need to have a mindset of just working on it piece by piece, day by day, in whatever free time you have, just finish one piece for one day, and a couple of weeks later on, you'll not even realize that, but you'll be much, much closer to the end goal and to the finish line. So, just don't get discouraged, realize it takes some time to get this stuff done.
Now, when I finish up the models I'll just do a dirty UV pass in 3ds Max, and then I will just use an automatic unwrapping option in ZBrush which will relax all the UV's for me really nicely. This is a technique I learned from one of Choon Khin's tutorials, and it really, really helped me a lot with UV-ing, you can see the before and after of cleaning up UV's in ZBrush. And after all that's been done, I'll just go quickly into ZBrush, and add some additional wear and tear, some additional scratches and dents to make it feel more irregular and imperfect. And please note that I'm not a ZBrush artist, I'm terrible at it. I just really wanted to try and use it very, very quickly and roughly in this project, and essentially see what I can get away with.
And I'm fairly happy what kind of additional realism it could give to your models, even with very limited knowledge that you can have in software. I just used the clay brush here, and just kind of randomly sculpted stuff around the edges. All the additional ZBrush detail has then been baked in Substance Painter, and this is the first time I've used Substance Painter on any project, and I'm absolutely in love with this software. It's so goddamn fast, and fun to use. And when you have all that additional maps and textures baked in, it knows automatically where to put your scratches, where to put your dirt and your rust. And you can just kind of play around with the look that you want to achieve.
So you can see here, I'm adding rust just in the parts where logically rust would actually appear in, in crevices and all the scratches up here along the edges. And the best part is, it's so fast and you can work in lower texture resolutions, here I'm working in 2K, but you can switch to 4K at a moment and it will up-res the textures perfectly. Substance also has some really neat tricks like these particle brushes here, where you can just spray down your model with rain, and it will create your streaks where needed. And one of the best parts as well is, once you finish creating your smart material, you can just copy it to all the other parts of your model, and it will automatically apply all those smart features, all those scratches, all those rust, and dirt parts logically where they need to be, without having to do any additional work. And that just speeds things up dramatically.
Here I'm just finishing up the leather material, and with that, the entire asset has been completed. I think the entire process of texturing this guy took me maybe one to two hours. It's incredibly fast, and now the only thing you need to do is repeat the entire process for all the other models and you can move into scene assembly.
So, I did the same with the rifle as well, modeled it and SUbD, did a quick UV pass, cleaned it up in ZBrush, added some additional sculpt detail in ZBrush, and then finished up the texturing in the Substance Painter. Again, the same thing for the Leebo character -- blocked it all out, did a high res poly modeling, unwrap it in ZBrush, add additional detail in ZBrush, and do the texturing in Substance Painter.
This process is a bit tedious at this point because you're essentially doing the same motions over and over again, but hey, that's what you got to do. That's what you need to do in order to finish the stuff. I also needed to create a destroyed version of Leebo, for which I just used some brushes with Alphas to create this kind of laser holes and damages. Then just did an additional mercurial pass on top in Substance with this dripping down destruction and oil and stuff.
Now you think you might be done, but nope, you still have to do the spaceships. Found a model online for proportions reference, did all the boring steps of modeling and asset all over again. This IG-2000 ship was fairly fast and easy to model. And honestly, for the screen time that we see it in, I wasn't really focusing that much on the detail. But again, with Substance Painter it was just fun to play around with different texture setups.
Same process for our last asset, The Outrider, which is Dash Rendar's spaceship. Again, free model online just for proportion reference, did whole SUbD modeling. One interesting technique that I used here is, if you look at all those Star Wars ships they have, a lot of Reboo on them which is what they used back in the day when they were kitbashing the scale models themselves. So I did the same thing here, I just built some random shapes. They were all unwrapped and SUbD modeled. So I can just use them and paint them over on top of my asset, and just create all that additional Reboo information fairly quickly.
Same boring steps again of unwrapping your asset and then painstakingly sculpting all the scratches and the edges in ZBrush. And then comes the fun part in Substance Painter. There's this one rust effect that I absolutely love to use, and it fits right into the world of Star Wars. It actually reads your materials, it reads where are the metallic parts of your materials located, and it will create rust just around those edges. And you can see here all the scratches along the edges have the bare metal exposed, and you can see the rust accumulating in those parts as well.
Some of the other fun particle brushes and particle effects in Substance like the laser impact, these are not super high res, but they're still fun to play around with, and again, I knew I'm going to see this asset from far away, so it's not really bothering me. And you can see some of the other fun particle assets you can use like the desert storms, the fires, the puddles. In this example, they're used over the top, but you can be more subtle with it and create some really interesting texturing work.
Lastly, I just did a very, very quick and rudimentary rig for every asset. If there's anybody who's like a pro-rigger watching this, you'd be laughing your arse off because this is not a rig, this is just linking models to controllers. But it works for our intense and purposes, and I don't know how to do anything more complex than that. Here we can see some of the work that Soren has put in into creating Dash Rendar's asset. I'm not gonna talk much over this stuff, I'm no ZBrush expert as I mentioned. But you can see Soren clearly is. And there's some of that nasty head wound our character has.
And with all that work we're finally finished with asset building. Every single model here has taken seven days to create from start to finish. There's just timeframe I gave to myself to be able to finish this stuff on time. None of these models are perfect by any means, but for what they need to do they work just fine.
Now, for the main junkyard scene. Knowing that 90% of the time we'll be looking down the floor, I just modeled a floor panel which I could use and duplicate throughout the scene. And then I just scattered some small debris. For the walls, I just modeled a wall piece and use the Greeble Modifier, which is a free modifier for 3DS max for that additional detail. And I used my own kabash pack I made for the Outrider asset. I just pasted that on top of the walls. I did not really care about the rest of the environment, because it's solely going to be in the background and heavily out of focus. So I just needed to focus upon the very close-up stuff.
Here you can see the amazing Octane Render in the works, you can see that main red up lighting the entire scene, giving that overall red hue to everything. And then we have some additional complimentary blue projected down the patterned light giving off the impression that there's more to the scene than there actually is.
The space scene mostly consists of background stars and floating junk. Those were all scattered around with Particle Flow. For the planet, I've used Venus textures from NASA. There are three layers to the planet, three spheres. One for the ground geometry, the other one for the layer of clouds, and the third one for the atmosphere. The ground geometry has a displacement on top of it to provide for those mountain peaks. The cloud layer also has the displacement texture to actually produce a volume of clouds and not just be a 2D layer on top of everything. And then the third sphere has a specular material which has a volume medium in its scattering node to provide for that atmospheric look.
So here we are finally at the post-production stage. I did not use any fancy techniques just After Effects for all my compositing work. Just rendered out additional light passes to get a better read on all the assets. Used some Video Co-pilot stock footage for the explosions. And just a couple of additional plug-ins like Magic Bullet Looks for color grading, then some optical flares for all the lens effects.
The final planet look has been achieved all in Comp. I used Neat Video for noise removal which works wonders with Octane. And then just a couple of Z-dap passes and background low passes to achieve the final atmospheric look. I used additional particles for the smoke trails, some lens flares and color variety on top of everything to tie it all together.
For the junkyard long shot, I've rendered as many light passes as I possibly could to give me all the control and comp where I could change the individual light's color or intensity at will. Get a lot of Z-dap compositing for all the smoke elements and fog, did some additional comp, depth of field to hide all the mistakes and hide some of the noise problems that I had. And topped it all off again with some color rating and some film effects.
And that's really it. Once you've done this for all of the shots, you've pretty much completed your short film. So I really hope this video demystifies the amount of work that goes into producing something like this. And I truly, truly hope that you got something out of it. I know this video has been a bit on the longer side, but I truly hope it helps you in any way possible.