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    Villains are fun

    on December 9th, 2009, by ben


    Hi all from the Blender Institute after two months of waiting! Talk about being late for work…

    Best advice I can give for jetlag is to just get straight into it. I got here last monday morning at about 9am after a whole lot of flying so I wasn’t up to full speed that day of course (still worked a bit), but have been loving it ever since. I’ve been given domain over creating the guardian characters. Baddies are a lot of fun to work on. I’ve tried to keep their expressions fairly neutral for rigging because it is very easy to get carried away and give them massive smirks, angry eyebrows and all that sort of thing.

    One day I’d like to pull out all the stops and create my own ridiculously over the top evil supervillain, but for now these characters need to fit in Sintel’s world. Which brings me to the point of style. Most characters I have worked on (at least in recent times) have been based on photographic reference of people, meaning my default reaction is to aim for as much realism as possible in proportions, details and so on. While we plan to add a lot of detail to much of the film, the world does have a certain style to it. My main challenge was to stop modelling from references like Jack Black and Hugo Weaving and bring the models into line with Sintel and each other. This aspect might take a few more revisions yet but the team reaction so far has been quite positive which means I don’t have to get on the next plane back home. Yay!

    As far as technique – I modelled Jack first, tweaked the topology a bit and then made the other characters from that mesh so they all have the same topology. Not that we plan to just use one texture map for all of them because that would be lazy and really boring, but it should help troubleshooting when we get to the facial rigging and so on. Brecht has his genius hands full for a bit so sculpting is on hold for a little while (I was testing it for a bit on the weekend) so I’m working on finishing up the characters bodies and then some environment work. Really looking forward to how far we can push the characters with sculpt though, mainly in detailing their outfits but it will help add a lot to the look of the film in many ways.

    Three quick things to finish up the post:

    1. Go to the AAO (Approximate Ambient Occlusion) settings and look at the new options. (Not in the Alpha – try a build since last friday.) Indirect light with multiple bounces! I’m still hesitant to post a .blend example because I’m just playing with settings like everyone else for now. Basically the same advantages and disadvantages as AAO, works with falloff, works better with higher subdivided surfaces, etc. for some related experiments and images.

    2. Apparently it’s been in there for ages, but Angela and I didn’t know : In edit mode when you click the icon to go into vertex, edge or face mode you can simply shift click on those icons in any combination and then be in ‘edge and face mode’ and so on.

    3. Good ol’ fashioned fun for fans of good ol’ fashioned supervillians. Recommended. It premiered online which is cool in and of itself, but not sure where to watch it now outside of the US other than the dvd.

    – Ben

    31 Responses to “Villains are fun”

    1. Jeroen Says:

      Really nice! I like their evil look, it just the right amount of evil as I would expect myself. I’d love to see some wireframes!
      Good job! I really like this style already without sculpting.
      I’m looking forward to see some sculpting tests to see if it won’t break the sintel feeling πŸ™‚

    2. bydesign Says:

      that GI is great stuff! I hope that it will be bakeable once texture baking is re-added to 2.5. That’ll be awesome. Great work, guys, the villains are looking good.

    3. Logidude Says:

      That was really nice! Nice modelling. I wish I could get as good at blender and be able to do things like that. Maybe on the dvd you could include a modelling tutorial or something!

    4. ijstaart Says:

      Looks great!

      As for Dr. Horrible, you can also watch the episodes on Youtube (less quality, but still watchable). It’s an independent movie, written during the writer’s strike by Joss Whedon and his family (you probably know them from tv-series such as Firefly, Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse), and filmed after the strike with friends and a bunch of sponsors. In the first few days after the release, it was available for free to view on the website (one of the rare moments where Hulu could be used all over the world), but nowadays they’re only selling DVD’s of it. Because, well, just like the Blender Foundation, they need money to keep making those kind of movies πŸ™‚

      If there’s two DVD’s in this world to buy, it’s Sintel and Dr. Horrible. They’re both worth it πŸ˜€

      (and btw, buying Dr. Horrible won’t put the money in some closed pockets.. Dr. Horrible II is coming!)

      Okay, back to Sintel now :$ Can’t wait to see what the whole characters will look like in full composited 3d!

    5. tyrant monkey Says:

      the one on the right end looks like he is straight from a Hong Kong kung fu movie which is a good thing in my books. I love my kung fu movies the cheese the better.

    6. D Says:

      Seems I could identify whose face was who’s without looking at the captions. πŸ˜€ Dark guy, Jack, Smith and Lao Tseu, right? Yes, it was! Although I think I see Hugo in Dark guy more than Smith himself. πŸ˜›

      If you’re not locked off yet, why don’t you consider some of these for tweaks:

      If the Lao Tseu face is meant to be Asian in origin, you could make his face look more authentic by including an inferior zygomatic projection typical of what they call the Mongoloid skull structure. The upshot of this trait is that the face appears flatter in comparison to the Caucasoid counterpart; conversely, the flesh directly below the Caucasoid cheeks at nostril level sink backwards more than the Mongoloid – which is the case for Lao at the moment.
      This is explained better by a forensic art book on the first few pages of chapter five, which can be found here:
      Figures 5.1 and 5.8 on page 182 are a good illustration of what I meant.

      A second thing you might want to consider is built-in asymmetry in Jack’s face, like in King Kong’s (2005). David’s artwork seemed to suggest this, not only in the eyes, but perhaps even his mouth. The left side of his mouth seemed drawn upwards in a sort of sneer. It would make his character appear just that bit more colorful and memorable for the brief (?) time we see him in the movie, I think.

      What do You think? Whatever you do, think about it! Think not otherwise, your models are looking good already. πŸ˜€ You can make them better.

    7. Daniel Says:

      They look great, and Jack actually looks a bit like Jack Black. Or is that just me?

    8. Gwilwileth Says:

      Awesome modeling, one thing, there is something i don’t like very much it is the fold near the ckeek, seems like a scar… Ok for one guy, but alls…

      Good woork !
      For the shift click…I knew it ! It also works for thΓ© axis… As always in Blender, if you know one shortcut, try it somewhere else ! ^^

      keep it up =D

    9. Sleeper Says:

      Jack looks like an evil Churchill.

    10. ben Says:

      Thanks all for the quick replies.

      @Logidude – We plan to do a whole bunch of tutorials and screen captures. It’s just taking the time to make them a reality. Movie needs to be made too… πŸ™‚ I learnt a lot from studying Proog back when I got my copy of Elephants Dream so it’s great fun to be in the other position now. Definitely wanting to share a lot of stuff as I go.

      @ijstaart – News of Dr. Horrible II has made my day. Well, was enjoying the day anyway, but you know what I mean.

      @D – Thanks for the critiques, will take a little to digest. These will go through the usual round of Weekly Meeting feedback just like everything else, so things like how well races are defined, asymmetry in characters and so on will be discussed. Again, it comes down to style and how much we push certain aspects.

      @Daniel – Well, I did start modelling Jack Black and have kept that version separate. He has a lot of visual character so I might finish that off at a later date as a side project.

      @Gwilwileth – Some of the folds / creases are sharper than I would usually model them and is one thing that would make good discussion at the weekly. the other thing to keep in mind here is that is just an openGL screencap and lighting and sss material shading will have a dramatic effect on how sharp those folds appear in the final renders.

    11. MeshWeaver Says:

      they look good πŸ˜€ the second one is “Jack”, right? looks like him πŸ˜€

      new builds for 2.5?!?! ok, dropping everything to go get one! πŸ˜‰

      (just read you were working on a 3D Jack Black πŸ˜€ pretty cool :-D)

    12. wo262 Says:

      angela and you are masters but
      you didn’t know shift+clic for multiple icon combination (vextex edge and faces)

      well, blender have got a lot of little tricks. should learn πŸ˜€

    13. Robo3Dguy Says:

      I like LaoTseu’s moustache/goatee. Awesome work!

    14. Jean-SΓ©bastien Guillemette Says:

      Very nice work Ben! Looks like the time at that studio before getting to amsterdam was well spent on improving all your skills. πŸ™‚

    15. Gobot Says:

      Great work Ben! And to the rest of the Durian team! It occurred to me while taking a look at the animation of the video game, “The Mark of Kri” and “The Mark of Kri” might help with some of the fight scenes. And maybe tone…Not sure about modeling.

    16. yoff Says:

      These are really good, Ben…

    17. Nik Says:

      “Jack” has never been more deserving of the name, now that he appears to be a mix of Jack Black and Jack Nicholson πŸ˜€

    18. rogper Says:

      Hi there Ben!
      So Lao isn’t Bruce Lee πŸ™ (secret wish) ^_^
      They are all awesome!
      About the 2. …I don’t use it much… very very rarely… I don’t fell the need to have points and faces available…
      Great work!

    19. -jay- Says:

      concerning selecting multiple modes of editing- I’ve been requesting that the ctrl-tab menu bring up all options, face,vert,edge, face + vert, edge + face, vert + edge, and all, see if you can subliminally influence the coders there to add it πŸ˜‰ It’s really a convenient way to work.

    20. Riboshom Says:


      Why do none of these characters have hair (outside of Lao Tseu’s mustache)?

      Those characters have personality, they can’t be all that bad!
      And it must be cold, where they live! It would, in fact, be a benediction to have just an over-the-average pilosity…

    21. ben Says:

      @Riboshom – forgot to mention that none of them have their hair yet, including Lao Tseu. It will all be proper simulated hair (and beard, etc) strands, but I haven’t got that far. Ton is constantly um, ‘inquiring’ as to when he can see a fully completed character – hair, textures, shading and everything – and I keep asking in return when the shading, sculpting and other features will be ready. πŸ™‚

      But that is more or less the nature of the project workflow. We intentionally run ourselves against walls as artists so the developers know what needs the most attention. Many of the tools are pretty close though, I hope I didn’t make that sound worse than it is. Go Devs!

    22. RH2 Says:

      Looking forward to your texture pass.
      Shift-click works on widgets too πŸ™‚

    23. Logidude Says:

      @ben yeah, I can’t wait for the movie though. i think it would be awesome! And I hope to work in the blender foundation one day for an open movie!

    24. gustav Says:

      fantastic modeling! Would love to see some wireframes!

    25. Stephen Says:

      Hi Ben, would you find this useful at all?

      Male Muscle Anatomy turntable:

      I created a model in blender, but have sculpted it in zBrush, and created a turntable for it in flash, so it probably isn’t something you can use in the film, hopefully you will find it a useful quick reference, if only for pointers on what not to do πŸ˜€

    26. gaalgergely Says:

      hi ben!
      very nice!
      i cant wait to see the rest of the body(s).

      slightly off topic:
      is there any way to persuade the dear coders to implement
      adjustable opengl-3d scene lighting a la Mudbox?
      while you are sculpting, holding down a key and mousedrag
      rotates the default opengl lights around the scene. (blender
      has 3 of them in preferences, but they are fixed into one
      position and there is no “easy” way to move them
      around WHILE in heavy modeling to check your last sculpt
      had the perfect depth)
      thanks for reading…

    27. Robbie Losee Says:

      I am always encouraged when I hear things like “We didn’t know this feature was in there” or “I learned a lot by studying Proog.” It is great for noobs like me to be reminded that we all are in the process of learning, and this learning process takes time. It seems every time I try to create something new with blender, I learn a little more. Then I start thinking “How did I ever manage without knowing about… Noodles or Parenting or Baking or Drivers or the Perfect Render Button.”

    28. Stephen Says:

      You connect one node to another by creating a thread that runs from one node’s output socket to another node’s input socket. Any number of threads can connect to the same input socket. A bunch of connected nodes is called a noodle.

      Cheers Robbie, I had to find out what a noodle was πŸ˜€

    29. Siarhei Says:

      Is it my eyes or something else, but i think that they have similar face. Make it more different from each other….

    30. Riboshom Says:

      Will these guys be the only villains in the entire movie?

      Evil is good! πŸ˜€

    31. Rudiger Says:

      Wow, must have forgotten to comment on this post the first time round, but these are really fantastic, Ben! It’s great to see a fellow South Aussie doing so well on such an exciting and ground-breaking project.

      They look a bit like villains you might see in an 80s action film, especially the guy on the end, who instantly reminded me of the now legendary Kung-Fu actor and stunt man, Al Leong. I agree that there is an uncanny degree of likeness between them, but perhaps it’s because they all have no hair and neutral expressions. I’m sure it’ll be easy to give them subtle variations in the sculpt and texturing stages.