How many distinct characters were created for this commercial? How many total actors were in the commercial and how did you create distinct looks for them without massive amounts of work?
Christopher: I believe we created something around fifteen unique characters all together and then did multiple variations of them. The good guys, or the fluffy villagers had about nine unique versions and the orc gang had about six of them including the dragon and some other four-legged creatures. For a commercial, that's quite a lot.
After we created all the unique versions we started working on the variations and the volume of characters that we needed to make the village and the army feel real and truly massive. One technique I like to use is create a version quite drastically different from the one you start out with and then do a blend between those two within ZBrush using a Morph Target, the Morph Brush and 3D Layers. I might do a 50% blend or just keep different attributes like the eyes from the first version but a different mouth and head shape from the other.
Using these different techniques you can quite quickly and fairly easily set up a vast number of variations. This could be done with both the furry people and the orcs as long as the topology was kept the same. This is the kind of technique that I prefer using, since we were doing that anyway to make it easier changing textures between characters for even more variations. It also made things easier for the riggers to reuse their setups.
When it came to clothes and armor we had to approach this a bit differently. We instead did a lot of pieces of armor that we could combine with each other in many different ways. For example, one orc could wear full body armor while another orc could use the exact same amor but instead we would remove some major pieces making it look very different. Creating armor this way also made it easier once again for the animators to have better mobility of their characters when animating instead of having one solid chest piece and worrying that the metal might do something very unnatural like bending.
Which characters used ZBrush and why?
Grant: ZBrush is always my first choice for sculpting. Having worked with Scott Eaton on a number of previous projects and seeing what can be achieved with ZBrush I find it difficult to comprehend using an alternative. The detail that can be created, the sculpting tools available and the sculpture display are my main reasons for using ZBrush over its competitors.
Christopher: Basically all the major hero characters and I'd say half of the background characters were done using ZBrush in one way or another. Some of the orcs where made using other software, so often it's just a matter of preference.
Mary: I'm a bit of a tart when it comes to software. I like to use a variety and take the best bits from each one. My job was to model and texture the child and woman, so ZBrush was my weapon of choice for blocking out the proportions as quickly as possible. I took the body of Balfour (our name for the hero character), deleted a few Edge Loops and then used the funky TransPose tools in ZBrush to create child and female proportions. I do like to use other software for a lot of my sculpting but I then came back to ZBrush to ZSketch out the fur on the coats and clothing and hair. This was a great tool for very quickly showing how the finished characters and clothes would start to look, even before the fur guys started to groom. With our daily reviews by the client this proved to be a very big advantage as we could show our models in a more finished state.
In the past I have used ZBrush for similar purposes. Modeling Death for the ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' animated sequence with the three brothers I could quickly ZBrush Death's hood and cloth so it could be reviewed. Even though this would all be simulated in cloth effects, it was a good way to develop a character.