Francois Rimasson rendered "Georges" as a personal project, modeling in 3D Studio Max and Rendering in Softimage with Mental Ray. Francois had worked on heads before, but was trying to improve the quality and realism of his work.
Francois is 28 years old, and lives in Bordeaux, France. Since 1992, he has worked as designer and CG artist at the French video game company Kalisto. He has developed graphics for a PC arcade game, a Super Nintendo title, and for CG movies in the PC adventure game "Dark Earth." Francois is now aiming to work in films or on an animated series. You can see more of Francois's work on his web site, perso.club-internet.fr/rimasson/.
The head was first modeled in 3DS Max, then rendered in Softimage with Mental Ray. Francois did some sketches (a front and side view), using some photo references for intricate areas such as the ears. The sketches were scanned and mapped onto perpendicular grids in Max as reference.
This modeling project presented an opportunity to explore and compare various modeling techniques. Polygonal modeling proved extremely time consuming for high-resolution meshes, and NURBS modeling in 3D Studio Max on his Pentium 90 was very slow. Francois settled on the Surface Tools plug-in for his modeling. The plug-in generates a b-spline surface from a curve network. Francois found that it presents "a fair mix between NURBS and polys: You don't have to spend time stitching nurbs patches together, but, on the other hand, you don't have any mapping coordinates..."
Francois started modeling from the mouth and eyes, and drew radial curves from the edges of the mouth and eye regions, towards the neck and the back of the head. Front and side mapped grids were used to help shape the curves. Francois modeled only one half of the head, and used a mirrored instance object for the other. Francois found that "Modeling with b-spline curves produced very smooth models, but, unfortunately, Surface Tools had bugs: the continuity of the surface was broken in some areas," which eventually forced him to convert to polygons to create a seamless model.
The Unwrap plugin helped in texturing the model, by rendering a wireframe image in relation to the mapping coordinates. Francois started with a black and white picture of Clint Eastwood, and spent some hours in Photoshop painting, editing, and perfecting the texture. A color map, bump, shinyness and transparency maps were used.
Francois spent many hours trying to render realistic hair in Max, without success. He then imported his scene into Softimage, and used the Mental Ray renderer for the rendering. He adjusted the Fur shader, playing with the color, length, and specularity parameters. The shader is only a post-process, added on top of the rendering of the model such that the hair does not appear in reflections, nor cast shadows or appear through transparent surfaces. Francois also noticed limitations in the lack of control over parameters such as hair inertia, curling, and distribution.
Francois' quest for the ideal modeling technique is not yet over. He is now attempting to develop more complex models via NURBS modeling in Maya. The images below show the head at different stages of development, in 3D Studio Max (left) and in Softimage 3D (right).