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Autore: Stephen Molyneaux
Titolo: Bernadette
Modellazione: 3ds max
Render: Mental ray
Post Processing: Photoshop



A graduate from Bradford University in the UK, Stephen Molyneaux has earned a degree in Computer Animation. Stephen started off producing 3D animations for medical visualization. He has also picked up work in the game industry for three years and has developed his skills both technically and artistically working at Blade Interactive.

Stephen Molyneaux is now working on a film project, as a Texture Artist at Moving Picture Company in London.



For the private piece, 'Bernadette', Molyneaux had a pretty good idea what the pose and composition was going to be from the start. The biggest assistance was collecting as much photo-reference as possible. “I took a lot of photos of the model, Bernadette Vong, from various angles and studied the anatomy,” Molyneaux explains.

I had also collected a heap of fashion image reference to look at poses, lighting and mood. Most importantly, I wanted to create a great image and concentrate on key areas such as pose and gesture. She also had to look natural and not too over-posed. I wanted her looking like she was sitting on a couch, as it was more of a fashion image. I knew that I didn’t have to go into micro-pore detail to achieve the realism that was needed.


I started with a basic clean low-poly mesh in 3ds Max, blocking out the proportions in T-pose. The idea of the T-pose is that you make the character mesh in that position in the first place, and then skin it.


I’d decided it would be easier to get the proportions correct in T-pose than jumping straight into posing. I also used the tape tool to help me get the measurements as close as possible to ‘Bernadette’.

This was an extremely important stage as it would make the posing in ZBrush a lot more straight-forward. After the low poly mesh of her torso was made, the mesh was taken into ZBrush for posing using the Transpose tool.

Using topological masks, I posed the model as accurately as I could, making sure to use the Transpose tool where joints and bones would be. After the new pose was blocked out, I took the low-poly model back into Max and used it as a reference for the clothing to be built upon.



The dress was modeled on top of the posed model, whereas the shoes were modeled in a separate Max scene, then merged and positioned to fit her feet. Once I had all the pieces in place, I imported them all into ZBrush as separate SubTools and started detailing the meshes.



I started with the body, fixing areas that deformed badly when posed. The reference was very useful at this stage to see how gravity was effecting how the muscles fell and where creases developed. As it was a female form the sculpting was done very subtly. I didn’t want to make her look too old or exaggerate any of her details too much. The clothing was also detailed with creases that would make the cloth hang realistically on her body. The eyes were modeled in two parts, the iris and the outer sphere, which had a transparency ramp included.


The base mesh was made in Max and sculpted in ZBrush. The creases were most important in showing the weight from her legs onto the couch. Reference was used to see how the creases would develop and how far the feet would sink into the leather cushion.


Ideally, I would have liked to use a plugin that could create realistic hair, but I decided to use standard poly planes with alpha mapped textures. I also knew that as the image was not a head-and-shoulders portrait image, I was fairly confident this technique would be sufficient.

I made sure that I had enough volume in the hair and there were enough polys to loosen any harsh angles and shadows. Eyebrows were made using Max hair but I know they could have easily been made within Photoshop.



Before I started painting the textures I did some tests with shaders in Max using the MISSS_fast skin shader. I find that so many people’s renders tend to overdo the subsurface scattering (SSS) effect. There should always be time put aside at this stage for experimentation, because it is important the skin didn’t look to waxy. I played with the sub-dermal settings until I found a base shader I was happy with. If you put some basic lighting in the scene it really helps when tweaking the shader.


Map play

I created a color map that was used for the epidermal and diffuse slots on the shader, a single Spec map and a displacement map," he said.

A makeup map was made that was plugged into the overall color channel. All other objects were mapped in Max using planer mapping and relaxed UV's with seams away from the camera view.



The clothing was textured with a simple repeated pattern applied to a standard shader with a tight specularity. The Couch used mental ray Arch Design Leather Material. The eyes had a basic phong shader applied and I faked up some SSS with some self-illumination, tweaked until I was happy with the eye’s white.

Lighting & rendering

I created a few walls to mimic a studio setup and used two photometric lights with similar sizes to light boxes. There was one for the key and one for some fill, combined with some subtle foreground bounce light in the scene. This was a very simple setup.


The body and the couch were rendered with the use of displacement maps. The rendering was done in only one pass at a very high resolution and touched up in Photoshop at the end to give the image more contrast. Some color correction was used to give the scene more mood.

About the artist


My name is Stephen Molyneaux and I live in Manchester in the United Kingdom. After graduating from Bradford University in 2004 with a degree in Computer Animation, I went to work at a games company called Blade Interactive as a 3D artist. I developed an interest mainly working with characters and will soon be crossing into the movie VFX industry to develop further in my career.


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