Character Creation Module 09

Presenting Your Work

Now lets talk about making all your hard work pay off.

In many studios you are only as good as your last presentation. This can refer to your reel, because it may be the last impression you make on a recruiting department, and it can also refer to the recurring event of presenting your work to a director once you’ve been hired. This module will examine the importance of “selling” your designs and offer a variety of tips and expert insights into crafting your reel or portfolio to improve your chances of landing a dream job.

Use the techniques discussed in module 05, Rhythms and Gestures of the Figure, to pose your character. Don’t go crazy, you are just looking for a way to infuse the sculpt with a bit of life, not create a “Marvel Comic” pose that will overpower the design. Ideally, the pose will be expressive, but not so extreme that it takes attention away from the design you are pitching.

Here are a few fundamentals to keep in mind when posing your character.

The first point to examine is called contrapposto. In its simplest definition, this means that when the shoulders drop in one direction, the hips drop in the other direction to compensate. The image bellow illustrates how evident contrapposto is in “The David” and how relevant it is to creatures as well. Because this movement always happens at the core of your character, it acts as the foundation for all the rhythms that should flow throughout your creation. It’s really a game of balance.

Open and Closed Side of a Pose
One additional point worth noting is that both of these character poses have an “open” and “closed” side. Notice how David’s left arm and leg both lead your eye towards the outside of the sculpture, while his right arm and leg both lead you back towards the center. In the Froad, his right arm and leg are both “open” while his left leg and arm are both “closed”. This also sets up a balance of opposites and makes for a more dynamic pose.


The last brief point I’d like to mention when deciding on a pose for your character is where you look for inspiration. It’s hard to go wrong when you are looking at great sculptures to find inspiration for form, but when I’m looking for a great pose, I always look at drawings first. The very nature of drawing allows for quick fluid movements. The same elements you want to capture in your pose. This would be a good time to go back and look at a few great masters of animation-character design, i.e. Nicolas Marlet. Even his still poses look like they have movement. The only caveat is to remember that drawings often forget about adding “twist” to a character- which makes it work better in 3D. Lets look at several example images of Spiderman from Alex Ross. The first set of black and white drawings are two great examples of subtle, almost symmetrical posing, that showcase the design while also showing emotion. In the drawing on the left, Spiderman is leading with his head in a very non-assertive stance. One could imagine that he is poised on a ledge, high above the city, canvasing the streets below for wrong-doers. The image on the right shows Spiderman leading with his chest. As we now know, this is a very heroic poses and informs the viewer that someone’s spidy-senses have just tingled, and some bit of crime fighting action is about to take place. This pose also adds a subtle twist to the head which makes it much more dynamic.

The following two images are great examples of well executed poses and/or non-standard camera angles, both of which can add interest and life to your character presentation. However, even though the camera angle on the left, and the pose on the right, are interesting, they are a bit too dynamic to allow for an easy read of the character’s form and costume design. You must execute reservation when posing your character and choosing a camera angle. These images would be fine if they were accompanied by other images that first established, in a very clear way, the design you are tying to convey.

Clarity, in regard to the intention of your image, is paramount. The design decisions you make when choosing a composition, pose, camera angle, and absolutely every other element of your image, will contribute to it’s overall success- or failure.  The images below show two similar poses of Spiderman hanging out on a vertical surface, ready to sling his web. On the left, the lack of any recognizable background makes it very difficult to judge if he is on the ground and we are looking down on him, or if he is on the wall and we are looking straight at him. Conversely, on the right, Spiderman is obviously hanging out on a giant chimney, poised in anti-gravity readiness, prepared to defend himself! The design of this image works on several levels. The background building shows the minimum about of detail necessary to convey the location and angle of view. This makes it an effective element of the composition without taking focus away from the characters.

When character illustrations “just feel right”, there is always an underlying reason. Sometimes you can identify what that reason is and sometimes you can not- but either way, that reason still exists. In the image below (on the right) Spiderman was not out looking for trouble. He did not ambush the Goblin. He is obviously being attacked and ready to do what it takes to defend himself. This is an “unspoken” trademark of Spiderman folklore. He is the little guy. He is not the fastest, or the strongest, or the best armed, in comparison to his villainous counterparts; it’s part of why we love to root for him. The image below (on the right) taps into that core Spiderman folklore, adding another level of interest to the image, and making it that much more successful.

*Also worth noting is that if you look at a great image long enough, you’ll probably find a problem with it. In this case (above right) Spiderman appears to have grown a pair of subtle man-boobs. Well- I just ruined that image for myself.


Rendering in ZBrush
Next we are going to take a look at exporting turntables from ZBrush to create dynamic, professional movie files. All you need is ZBrush and Photoshop! Now that Phtoshop CS5 can import .mov files that can be layered and comped with ease- the sky is the limit!

Video: Document Size and Exporting Images

  • Size and Resolution
  • Setting your background

Video: Rendering Turntable Passes- Setup

  • Moive-Doc-Large
  • Set Camera, Movie-Timeline-Save. Draw-Angle of View
  • Spinframes to set turntable length
  • Turn off Overlay Images
  • Render a Turntable
  • The idea of a render pass


SPix- The SPix slider under the BRP button stands for Sub Pixel. This is ZBrush’s equivalent to a global render quality setting. I typically turn it down to “0” when experimenting, and back up to “3” for my final images. The higher you set this, the longer your images will take to render.

*If you are dealing with a very detailed model, it may be helpful to hide the majority of your Subtools, as well as part of your character’s body, as you experiment with light placement and other render quality settings. This will drastically increase the speed of your renders.

Render Properties| Details- The slider under the Render Properties|Details menu can be a bit confusing. This does not control the overall quality of details in your image. If you are using an image in your LightCaps or MatCaps, this setting controls the quality of that image at render time.

Video: Rendering Turntable Passes

  • Setting Material Properties
  • Lights
  • Color and Fill
  • Shadow and Occlusion


Render Properties|BPR Shadow– This menu contains adjustments settings for your shadows. Individual settings are outlined below.

  • FStrength- This setting controls the strength of the shadow on the floor. The grid must be turned on for this option.
  • GStrength- The global strength of your shadows for the render. This is an important setting because it will overpower the individual material’s shadow settings under Material|Shadow|Environment which controls the shadow strength for that specific material. If you have several dozen materials in your scene you can adjust their shadow intensity simultaneously by adjusting the GStrength setting instead of having to go into each material and adjust each separately.
  • VDepth- This moves the shadow on the model. It is worth experimenting with but I tend not to adjust this setting.
  • LDepth- To move the light closer, or further away from, the model you can adjust this setting. Because ZBrush does not allow you to grab a light in your scene and move it in and out, this can be a useful setting to achieve your desired results.
  • Gamma- Adjusts the overall darkness of your shadow. It also seems to affect the spread of the shadow in certain situations. With your SPix set to “0” you can experiment with this setting and quickly see how it impacts your render.
  • Falloff- Next to Gamma, this setting adjusts how quickly the affects of the Gamma setting transition from 0-100%.

Render Properties|BPR AO– This menu contains adjustments settings for your Ambient Occlusion. Individual settings are outlined below. They are the same as the settings outlined above for BPR Shadow. I do want to point out that adjusting the Gamma can greatly improve the effects of your AO. I would recommend experimenting with this setting.

Video: Rendering Turntable Passes

  • Rim
  • SSS
  • Import ZMO file, check Draw Angle
  • BRP SPix and Rendering Images and Turntables


Material Mixer- To adjust your SSS render results, you will want to experiment with the settings the the Material|Mixer. Unlike Shadow and AO, where the settings are adjusted via the Render Properties, to achieve good SSS results you will also need to adjust several SSS settings in your Material|Mixer.

  • Fresnel- (pronounced “fre-nel,” the “s” is silent) – the observation that the amount of reflectance you see on a surface depends on the viewing angle. This setting will affect how reflection of light is seen as the surface turns. It is very important in helping us achieve a good SSS render. Taking the number down will give a broader grey, less white result, while increasing the number will add more white to the surface as it turns.
  • F Exp- This setting adjusts how quickly the Fresnel effect fades from 0-100%.
  • By Shadow, By AO- These settings allow you to effect the surface of your sculpt by the shadow and/or AO. You can set each to a negative number and keep the SSS effect from being seen in the Shadow and AO areas. This is desirable as we are only looking to achieve an SSS look on areas that are directly hit by light.

Video: Comping in Photoshop

  • Import your passes
  • Layer adjust
  • Preview your creation
  • Output

Video: Comping in Photoshop

  • Final comp with Logo


Assignment: Project the details of your design sculpt onto your organized mesh. Experiment with polypainting your character and accessories, then try to bake out at least one set of textures (color, normals, or displacement). Create your final image and turntable. Use the information you’ve learned in this module’s lectures and notes to evaluate your reel or portfolio. Examine how you can re-craft it to make sure the impression it gives is inline with your goals.


It’s been a real pleasure seeing the progress in your sculpts!!! I’m truly impressed at how far you have come. Many of your initial story concepts really floored me!! I do believe that our future will be defined by unique and independent properties. The kind that contain cool characters like the ones you all came up with. I look forward to working with some of you in the near future.

I will be keeping these modules live for a few more weeks so everyone can catch up and go back to review videos if needed.

Remember, the best way to succeed is to fail over and over and over again. Persistence and dedication will get you where you want to go!!!


Good luck everyone and please stay in touch!!!!