Could you give us an overview of The Moving Picture Company? What is your background and what are some of the projects you've worked on?
MPC is one of the world's leading Visual Effects houses. We have facilities in London, Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York and Bangalore. I come from a traditionally trained art and photography background and I have worked at MPC since 2004. Some of the projects I have worked on include "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "Harry Potter", "Clash of the Titans" and "Kingdom of Heaven". In my current role as Head of Assets, I supervise the modeling and texturing teams.
How many digital artists do you have on staff? How many of them use ZBrush?
In my team it ranges from about 20-35 artists, depending on how busy we are. I also work closely with the Vancouver studio which is currently at around 15 artists. Most of the modelers and texture artists use ZBrush. Because of its crossover between modeling and texturing we find that it's becoming increasingly important to get all the artists working with it in some form or another.
In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, what were the elements where ZBrush was used?
The biggest chunk of ZBrush work for us was establishing the design of the characters as 3D maquette sculptures. We also used ZBrush to detail up displacement maps for the Dawntreader and also for the Serpent, Dragon and some rocks seen when Eustace the Dragon is slammed against them in the serpent battle sequence. I think most of our builds went through some form of ZBrush pass, though.
What was the overall process and pipeline for creating the dragon and the serpent?
With the dragon we already had a practical maquette built, which was delivered to us as a 3D scan. We used this to continue refining the shape of the creature, developing the form and aesthetics. We actually rebuilt the 3D scan as a lower resolution model which was then shrink-wrapped to the scan allowing us to rebuild the subdivision history inside ZBrush.
I think some directors still want to have a connection with practical models, but the advantage we had was being able to use ZBrush to make changes that would have taken much longer to do on a practical maquette. For example, we decided to work on the proportions of the head and presented various options for our clients. We spent time working on making this big golden dragon look as much like Eustace as possible, whilst maintaining the integrity of the original design. Once we felt happy with the 3D maquette sculpture, we started building up the topology as a deformable model which would then pass through the later stages of the pipeline including rigging and texturing. While we did this modeling work we had concept texturing work on top of renders of this ZBrush maquette so we could define the surface quality and color before we started the hardcore texture work.
Once the model was built and UV'd, we took it back into ZBrush to restore some of the broader sculptural details we had in the maquette. We still waited on the colour texture to define the layout of scales and finer wrinkles.