Thursday, May 31, 2012

What-If: Behind the Scenes!

Howdy there! I thought I'd walk through how I made the latest What-If, one that featured a SHSOified Batman! :D

To be clear, I'm obviously not a beginner, and I'll try not to get too technical. If I come across something that can only be explained in jargon filled paragraphs, I'll try to avoid talking about it at all.

First of all, Batman!
Batman was a tricky character to model, (manipulating polygons to form meshes to create an object in virtual space, but remember, I'm trying not to be too technical here so we'll stick with models and modeling), in the sense that if I got something wrong, it just wouldn't look like the Dark Knight. For the most part, I found that turning Batman into a SHSO character wasn't that hard at all. I just modeled directly off a picture of the Dark Knight for the head, and imported and improved a previously made SHSO body, (remember Darkhawk from this post?), and just tried to fit all the costume's parts onto a smaller body.

Rigging, (a process in which the model is linked to a "skeleton" so that you can move the arms and legs for posing and animation), Batman initially was easy to rig, but I found myself tweaking things all through the process.

Now for... the Joker! The second most recognizable character from the Dark Knight movie. I put off modeling him at first because I was afraid something might go wrong and he would look really awful. But in the end, I'm actually not that unsatisfied with how he looks. His hair is the only thing I'd change. I think that in trying to make it look more SHSO-y, I wound up messing up the hair. You'll notice that the hair texture is actually my own. Most of the textures are, actually. I usually make a rough texture in the 3d program, and then I bring it into Corel Painter X for refining. I'm pleased about Joker's shirt, I managed to find almost the exact same shirt material that the Joker wears in the movie. 

One of the things I noticed was that Joker wears many outfits. I tried to select one that wasn't too flashy, seeing as Batman is supposed to be the focus of the loading screen, and I knew he might be too dark to see.

For the textures on everyone, it was mostly solid color with a dull specular, (a specular dot is what you get when a light shines on a shiny object. For instance, if you look at a car in the daytime when the sun is shining, you'll probably see a place where the light intensifies into a dot. That is a specular. The shinier the object is, the brighter and more focused the dot is. If you shine a light on some velvet, the light will make a dull glow, not a shiny dot, because the light is broken on the rough surface of the-- ah whatever. It's just a light dot, okay?), a setup that works well with Batman's plastic-y costume.

Scarecrow is my favorite villain of al time. Unfortunately, he wasn't very fun to model because of the way he's portrayed in the Dark Knight and Batman Begins. I wish I could have been truer to the movie but I was pressed for time and unfortunately couldn't do a very good job. Sigh.

Ah, the batpod. When modeling this, I tried to be as accurate as possible to the movie, and still keep the polycount, (how many polygons are in the object, fewer means less detailed models, higher means more detail), low. Anyway, my main reason for discussing the batpod is that I want to talk about rendering.

This is the rendering engine WHILE it's rendering. Rendering is a process where the model gets all the stuff you can't see in the editor. Shadows, specular, Radiosity (I'll explain another time), HDRI (again, another time), reflection, refraction (yup, you guessed it, another time), caustics (once again, someday in the distant future), lights, depth of field, etc.

Here's the render when it's finished.


To start off, I didn't have to do everything from scratch because the guys over at the CBR forums have a page on their wiki where you can download a template for making fake hero icons in Photoshop.
It was a simple matter of rendering and moving layers, etc. to make this.
One thing I didn't have to do was mix and match heroes. Whenever they create a hero, they use existing heroes to form a new one, painting in the gaps and changing the colors, kind of like Frankenstein. However, I didn't have to do that because I actually had a model of Batman.
There's a handy tutorial on the same page of how they do it their way, if you're interested.

Okay, well the rest of the stuff was pretty simple. I took a reference shot of a random hero that was about Batman or Red Hood's height.

And then, without changing position, I took a picture of Wasp, the smallest hero I had.

I don't know whether Ant-Man would've worked better because I don't have him, but that probably would have worked too. Anyway, I simply replaced the tiny Wasp with Red Hood. In this case, I also put an orange colored light behind Red Hood to make it look like he was standing near the burning car.

Red Hood, without the background.

And now Red Hood with the background. You'll notice that I simply covered Wasp's name, (it is, thankfully, short), and replaced it with Red Hood's name in a font that was close to the font they used.

Same with the loading screen. I actually stitched two loading screens I found online together, trying to find one where the central loading screen thing isn't covered, turned that completely black and white, colored it yellow again and the gave it back a white point so that I could have a perfect composite.

And here, of course, is the final image.

Anyway, there is tons more I could say about this, but for now, I'm tired.
Please vote in the poll to your right whether or not I should Make SHSO Adam West Batman with Robin, Batgirl and the Riddler, OR concentrate on making a VIDEO with TDK Batman walking around the Daily Bugle zone and shopping for Joker and Scarecrow missions!

-- SHSOFan.