CGTalk finished another CG challenge, the Master and Servant, and our own legendary Kris Kosta (Antropus) has won for an unprecedented second time! Kris was kind enough to sit down with Ryan Kingslien to share his techniques and the process he used to create his amazing entry. So sit right back and enjoy a tale of the ins and outs of Kris Kosta's fantastic journey with a Kangaroo, a spoiled brat, and a man with a hot dog stand.

Well, so you have won again! Is there any stopping you?

I’m very happy to win first prize. It was totally unexpected, of course, because I already got the big prize on the Machine Flesh Challenge. I thought I had a chance to be among the top 10 but in no way to be the first.

I think this was my last participation in challenges like this. It's great to participate but it's just sad to hear the complaints and bad moods of some people after the challenges, after learning a lot with another people and having access to free shared knowledge. Instead of paying for CG classes people can learn from each other for free and this is what these challenges are all about. Prizes are always welcome but are nothing more than an incentive. Some people just don't get the message and the opportunity to learn in these challenges and prefer to discuss things from the organization to whether the winners deserve the prizes or not. So, I think this is what is stopping me :)

Anyway, I'm happy with the friends I made in the challenge and the opportunities and job offers that these challenges brought to me. So, next time I hope I can be on the other side, judging works and helping to run the challenge instead of just participating.

How are things going with your current job? Where are you working now?

Things are going great! I just love the place :-)

I'm working at CafeFX, a VFX studio located in Santa Maria, CA and responsible for some great visual effects for movies. To know more about the studio and these movies, please visit

I work as a 3D animator and CG artist, doing pretty much everything: modeling, texturing, facial rigging, animating and I hope I can learn compositing too. I'm always looking at my job as extension of my personal life, where I can create my art doing everything and with lots of freedom to create my stuff. I have this here at CafeFX. I have friends working (or already worked for) some of the biggest studios and I don't know if I'd be as happy working there as I'm here because I'd probably have to limit myself doing only one thing and in my opinion I'd be surely feeling more like a technician than an artist in this case. I'm happy to get the job here in the exactly moment when the studio is growing and everything looks very promising in the horizon, well deserved because the owners and general staff are awesome people. Some great challenges for future projects and I like this!

"The best solution to finish this work just to use ZBrush about 95-97% of the time."

You did a lot of work! How many hours do you think you put into this?

I don't really know how many hours but I remember they were a lot :) I can tell you that I was waiting for my O-1 work Visa process to be completed (I'm Brazilian) while I was working on the challenge. So, I was not working in the studio during this period. I worked hard for almost 50 days, at least 2 to 3 hours/day, working directly in my entry but mainly making my own researches to find out the best solution to finish this work just to use ZBrush about 95-97% of the time.

Alright, let's talk about modeling. You created most of the characters from ZSpheres?

Exactly. The mutant Kangaroo, the girl and the hot-dog seller were created entirely from ZSpheres. Also, great part of the vegetation and props were created from ZSpheres, converted to meshes, edited and placed in the layers.

What do you see as the advantage of using ZSpheres over box modeling in other applications?

It's fast and gives me a good basic topology to start my models. I don't need to create my models outside of ZBrush and import it. I can create the models quickly using ZSpheres and start to add details, textures and posing in the same environment.

Are your models all one piece or made of several separate pieces?

Several pieces. Apart of the Kangaroo, that's only made by one piece, everything else was created separately and placed in different layers using markers to store the exactly size/rotation/position of the object. This way, at any time, I can, for example, decide to change one of the heads. I can easily clean the layer where that head is located, draw another one in the same layer, modify it and re-apply it to the same marker without messing with other elements of the composition. I created several different files that were composed in Photoshop at the end. I have the Kangaroo, the girl and all the props related to these characters in one file, all separated in layers (about 12 layers). In another file I have the hot-dog seller, the ground, part of the plants and all the props at the floor, all separated in layers for easy adjustments also. In other files I have things like trees, more plants for the foreground, grass and extension of the ground, separated into layers, as always.

Can you go over some of the steps you do to composite your images in ZBrush?

I start by creating a sketch that shows the main compositing lines and use it as background (image applied in a plane in a different layer, with the same proportion of the final image I want to create). I normally work in half to 1/4 of the final resolution just for compositing purposes, making the workflow much faster. I create my models one by one and drop it in different layers, moving and adjusting their position in the space. When I get something close to what I have in mind I just use a marker to store the position/size/rotation of this object. I repeat the same steps to create everything, storing all the new objects in different layers, sometimes lots of similar objects in the same layer, sometimes only one object per layer. When I have the comp more or less organized, I just change the resolution to the full res I want and start cleaning layer by layer and re-drawing every single object again over the marker pre-defined, having a final comp with objects at full res also.

What tools do you use most frequently when modeling?

Standard and Inflat edit tools, move tool for soft modification/deformation, smart re-symmetry, ZSpheres, Texture Master combined with Simple Brush + Colorized Spray, Deco Brush for wrinkles modeling and hair/fur painting, custom alphas etc.

"ZBrush has a powerful set of materials that can
be modified and re-combined to create more
complex materials"

You have done a lot of work with materials and texturing in ZBrush. Can you give users, who are new to ZBrush, a sense of what you find important about ZBrush's materials and texturing tools?

ZBrush has a powerful set of materials that can be modified and re-combined to create more complex materials. The only limitation is that I can't use this materials in another apps, just inside of ZBrush. It's a totally different approach to creating textures. It is much easier than in other apps and very helpful to pre-visualize complex materials, rendered directly and quickly in ZBrush. With some experimenting, you can learn how to create amazing new shaders/materials in ZBrush. You can check to find a lot of free shaders shared by different artists.

The plants in your image are extraordinary. In fact, everything in the image is amazingly real. Can you share some of your steps to create that level or realism on such a large scale?

The key was to create different comps for the trees and plants at high resolution and use Photoshop to put all of it together at the end. To create the plants I used ZSpheres for some and low-poly models made in other 3D application and modified in ZBrush for others. All the textures were hand-painted and the plants had the center pivot changed to the bottom of the stem, making easier to draw a lot of copies of the same object using just rotation and scale to add some random look to the plants.

I created about 6 different plants and these plants were used to create the trees. For the the trees, I created the trunk using ZSpheres (three different trunks using the same technique).

For the leaves I create a basic object in a different ZBrush layer and created other layer over this one where I positioned the plants, one by one, until to get the right shape for the leaves. Then I just hid the bottom layer (with the basic object to define the shape of the leaves) and rendered only the top layer, showing just the leaves. I exported the rendered image to Photoshop where I used "select" > "color range" to delete the background.

Kris, congratulations on such great work and on winning a second CG Challenge! What's next on your agenda?

Next? Well, my wife is coming to visit me next week and December was the last time we saw each other. So, now I will rest a little from the competitions, travel a little and have some fun together for the 30-40 days she will be here :)

I'm still working hard in the studio to deliver a nice project involving an advanced facial rig I created recently. I have my name in two more projects already and I will start to work on it once I have delivered what I'm doing right now. All cool stuff, this is for sure ;)

Thanks a lot to Pixologic for the constant support and friendship, not only for me but also for a lot of talented artists that are growing together with ZBrush. I can't wait to put my hands in the new and promising version!

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