When you start producing a movie, you feel like there’s a whole world to create. You have to build everything from scratch. People, objects, buildings, animals, trees: all the things inside a movie are the projection of the imagination and competence of skilled artists.
How are digital characters created? It may sound strange at first, but it’s not so much different from what sculptors did in the Renaissance. Have you ever seen the David by Michelangelo? It’s arguably among the most known statues created by the Italian master. In order to create it, Michelangelo took a massive block of stone and started removing material from it. Slowly and steadily, Michelangelo created the masterpiece we know today.
Digital artists work in a similar manner. When they have to design a character, they create a sphere of material (it’s like a digital version of clay, actually) and then they start working it. Artists remove what’s unnecessary, modify what they don’t like, add layers of material where they consider worthwhile.
The same procedure applies to every other kind of object. Environments are assembled following the same procedure. With the digital tools at their disposal, 3D artists can set up any scenario they have in mind. Thanks to computer graphics, we are able to create entire worlds in the most detailed way possible.
Nowadays, the vast majority of 3D models are built as polygonal models. This workflow allows computers to render models quickly. This is particularly useful in interactive content since it optimizes computational processes when working in real time. What does that mean? When your guests interact with a digital attraction, they want the system to respond faster than light. Having properly optimized models is a key element in providing a smooth experience.
How can artists check if their models “work”? They can take advantage of wireframes. During this stage, modelers can check the polygons they have created for a specific character or object. Wireframes help artists who can now visualize the evolution of their works and remove unnecessary clutter, in order to provide to animators models that are easy to work with.
After having modeled the characters, the artist puts them in the so-called T-pose: every character stands up with their arms wide open. This is very useful to prepare the models for the animators.
But, just like statues, these models are uncolored. At this stage, they don’t look like finished products because they are completely white. Texturing is what gives life (and color!) to the previously modeled characters and environments.
With texturing, artists add information about the surface of the model: they can decide color, appearance, and smoothness of a particular surface. By applying the appropriate textures, the artist can “paint” the skin of a character, replicate the roughness of a wall and much more. If they are working with a human model, this is when artists can add wrinkles and “imperfection” with the purpose to create a photorealistic character. Frankly, the sky’s the limit here. Digital arts are fantastic because you can really do what you want to.
At the end of this stage, we have all the environments and characters of the movie. When the artists are done with modeling and texturing, it’s time to animate. But this is a whole different matter that we cannot wait to show you in the future!