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Francois Rimasson Interview
Could you introduce yourself? Can you tell us how you came to 3D?
I am 30 years old and I live actually in Paris, France.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
One of the first who inspired me was an artist from Mad Magazine : Mort Drucker. I started drawing characters while copying his work. Now, my main sources of inspiration stem from art of all kind. I like classic work as well as sci-fi/fantasy art and 3d : J.W. Waterhouse, Gustav Klimt, H.R. Giger, Bisley, Brom, John Lasseter...
What's your favorite genre, theme?
I'm actually inspired by the classical painters like Ingres,Vermeer and some B&W photographs !
What are your strong points?
I'm more experienced in modeling and lightning.
Tell us a little about "Cain".
I worked previously on characters, some with a Japanese style, some more cartoon, but this time, I would like to create a realistic human. I used the model I was working on (James) and started to work on textures and hair rendering. Cain was modeled in Maya, and rendered in 3ds Max, because of some hardware problems.
What reference material did you use?
I've got a large collection of comics, mangas, art and anatomy books, photo references.... and a good camera.
How long did it take to model and texture a head like this?
I modeled the head in about 3 days. It took me 2 more days to create the hair. Creating all the textures was the harder part and took the most of my spare time during 2 months.
How did you model the character?
Cain was modeled in Maya 2.5. I started out creating the head by using the "out of a box" method : a simple cube that I subdivided more and more using the 'Split polygon tool', while I modeled and shaped it progressively like clay. I modeled only half of the head, with the other one half updated and smoothed almost in real-time. I ended up with a 4000-5000 polygons, deformed the model - but not enough- to remove the symmetry, and finally smoothed out the geometry. There are special considerations for modeling faces that need to stretch and pull fluidly and realistically in animation. The edges tend to follow the muscles of the face, and globally start from the mouth to the neck, with some exceptions with the eyes and the ears.
Which were for you the most outstanding problems and how did you solve these?
The main problem was how to create the hair...I would like to add that the main error I made on this project was to use a not-so-realistic model and to apply realistic textures onto. The rendered picture looks strange. If I had ro work again on such a project, I'll FIRST touch up the model to fit a picture of a real human, THEN, I'll apply textures.
How did you make the hair?
I used a photo as reference picture to create the hair that was built out of simple nurbs patches. The tricky part was the realism of the hair, that was 'simply' achieved with about 80 different opacity and color maps. I roughly painted in Photoshop a single picture of the haircut that I converted into multiple textures (one per nurbs surface) using the 'convert to file texture' tool. Then I refined each texture map one by one.
Have you ever tried hair plug-ins?
I tried Shag : hair in Max, but the in comparison with the technique I used, the time to achieve a similar haircut would have been enormous, so, I didn't used it.
How did you texture it?
I took a lot of close-up photographs of people's skin and photos I scanned from magazines. In Adobe Photoshop, I processed skin images to avoid any attached shading or shadows, which would look "painted on" if they were a part of the maps. I composited the images into a very large (3000 * 1500 ) cylindrical projection skin map for the character's face. To avoid mapping stretching, I first relaxed some parts of the model, like the chin, the nostrils, applied the UV mapping, then morphed the model into the original shape.
Have you tried 3d paint programs? What do you think of them?
I haven't used any 3d paint program on this scene, but, since, I used from time to time Deep Paint 3d. On the feature film I was working on (Tristan & Isolde), I used it a lot to paint an entire Dragon's cave in a traditional way. I built a very simple geometry out of nurbs patches in Maya, and used Deep paint to create roughly all the textures. It was very useful to paint on many objects at the same time to blend all the objects together with the textures. The result is not on the same level as Schrek but, all the same, is cool.
Do you rather draw your textures from scratch or do you start from real life photos or other textures?
I often used Painter, to create natural and traditional-looking pictures, and on the other hand, photoshop is very useful to work on realistic textures, on photos, or to tune up a 3d picture.
How big do you usually paint your textures?
It really depends on the the scene and on the rendering resolution . In the Dragon sequence of Tristan and Isolde, for example, the maps were very large -up to 6000 * 10000, because paint had to hold up at a distance and extreme close up.
Could you classify the sub-maps by order of importance to you and explain your choice?
The most important is obviously the diffuse channel, I use often the ambient channel to add bounce light effects, specular channels to create wet surfaces or backlight illumination... and so on.
What's the modeling/texturing ratio in the final look?
I modeled a rather complex and detailed shape, but ALL the realism is achieved with the textures.
Do you try to model as much details as possible or do you rely on texturing to add details for things you don't manage to model and/or you just don't want to model?
I needed to model a lot of details, even some large wrinkles that need to move or disappear during an animation, and used textures only to simulate little irregularities.
What kind of lighting did you use in this scene?
I used 2 large area lights that gave me very soft and natural shadows: a warm key light and a cool fill light. In addition to the 2 main light I have used 3 little spots to add some bounce light effect and remove unwanted shadows.
Did you retouch the image with Photoshop?
I rendered the scene in multiples layers : for the main, the back and the specular lightning, and for the shadows. Then I used Photoshop to mix them, and added some missing details and depth of field. I'm very demanding, especially If it is a still and I try to fix any problems I might find.
Tell us a little about "The Visit".
I was inspired by a painting from Vermeer, 'La laitière'. At the beginning, I planned to create a whole scene, but I never had the time to finalize the project.
How did you model the face?
I used a simplified and modified version of the 'James' model.
How did you make the hair? How did you texture it?
The main part of the hair was built with a single nurbs surface, I added some additional patches to create the chignon, and created an anisotropic shader with diffuse specular and bump maps.
Which coordinate system do you think is best to use, when dealing with characters?
When you work with polygonal models, you can use many planar and cylindrical projection, depending of the topology of your model. i.e. : a cylindrical map on the head and the arms, a planar one on the torso, the textures will be blended together using a 3d paint program.
What do you think of Maya texturing features?
The Maya texturing and rendering tools, through the Hypershade that provides you a powerful shading network are very flexible. You can access to and tweak a lot of parameters, create easily complex procedural shaders, although I think that the tools are not exactly on the same level than Renderman or Mental Ray.
What is the lighting of this scene?
I used 6 large area light placed around the model to simulate a soft and diffuse lightning.
Tell us a little about "The birth of Eve : a nude study".
In order to learn more about human modeling, I decided to build a realistic nude from scratch in Maya, using subdivision surfaces.
What modeling technique did you use for this character?
I used the same modeling technique as Cain. I created the model using polygons, and then, I converted it into subdiv. I didn't used so much the level of details of the subdiv to add details.
What are the most important properties of building a great character?
Be observant, have a lot of reference photos and anatomy books. Do a lot of sketches to 'feel' the model. And don't hesitate to use background images - images plane in Maya- when you start modeling.
Why did you choose black & white?
Because -unlike photo- this is very unusual to see BW 3d pictures, It's also easier to create good pictures !.
What kind of lightning did you use in this scene?
I used 5 spotlight to create the key light, 4 more spots to add bounce light effects on the side and the bottom of the model. I used very blurred depth map shadows that created an area-light-like lightning, and speed up considerably the rendering time.
Is for you lighting important or do you rely much more on modeling and texturing?
You can create good pictures without any textures (The birth of Eve) or with a very simple model (Concrete), but lightning is the key to create stunning pictures. One of the first thing you learn in an art school is separating space between emply and fill, light and shadow, and the sense of volume; I just try to re-create that, to show off my models.