The Making of Totem
CG ace and Gnomon supremo Alex Alvarez shows his workflow for creating a lush jungle scene for our sister title, 3D World
Gnomon supremo Alex Alvarez creates a mysterious jungle scene using 2D and 3D tools.
Recently, our sister magazine 3D World asked CG artist and Gnomon Workshop founder Alex Alvarez to create an original piece for its Christmas 2013 cover. In the magazine Alex showed the broad sequence of how he created the ‘Totem’ render, but then decided there was more to say on the subject – over six hours more. That’s even longer than a Peter Jackson movie.
Many training videos are based around footage of the artist as he or she works on the piece. Here, Alex opts to present a sequence of work-inprogress scene files, analysing the techniques that he used at each stage. It means that while you don’t get to see many of the hands-on skills that other videos show, you gain a deep understanding of the procedures and tools that Alex utilised.
Alex uses CG tools, primarily Maya and ZBrush, with a topping of compositing in Photoshop. You’ll need some familiarity with CG tools and terms to get the most out of this masterclass: Alex doesn’t spend time explaining the distinction between bump maps and displacement maps, for example, but instead concentrates on how to optimise both.
If you have a basic 3D software toolset, Alex will also introduce you to numerous third-party tools. These range from handy free scripts to the complex and powerful tree-generation system SpeedTree, which Alex explores in some detail. He also talks a lot about how he organises his files: you’ll marvel at his library of renders for his ready-made plants, each with scale and tonal information. Together, these two topics are sure to trigger positive changes in how you work in 3D.
Alex covers the entire creative process from thumbnails to final render in this video. The depth of his knowledge is such that there isn’t a single stage when you won’t learn something new.
From textures to trees: Alex Alvarez’s video masterclass shows the secrets behind every stage of a mammoth CG jungle project. Early workshop chapters show how modelling was done in ZBrush (above) and Maya (left).