Welcome to Issue 37!
Welcome to our ‘Giant Creatures’ issue!
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Alessando Mastronardi talks about his superb 3D creatures, his ‘Look At My Hair’ plugin, and his new ‘auto ecosystem’ plugin.
DAZ STUDIO | ZBRUSH
“The first and perhaps most important step [in creating a 3D creature] is to collect and gather good reference material, study the animal anatomy, understand its biomechanics and its features like feathers, fur cover and anatomical details.”
Arthur is a long-standing user of Poser with Vue, and he enjoys working with the huge landscapes available in Vue 2016.
POSER 11 | VUE 2016
“[My recent ‘dinosaurs in large landscapes’ pictures] probably represent something of a shift away from fantasy, because I can actually make some money off of the dinosaur images being sold to palaeontologists and also through stock sites.”
We interview Herschel about his transition from the U.S. Army to running a growing card-deck company, to DAZ 3D.
DAZ STUDIO | UNREAL 4
“… I found the DAZ Store. I had already created close to 100 dinosaur models to produce art for my card game Apex, so the adaption wasn’t very hard, just learning DAZ Studio and rigging. I will soon be releasing Tyrannosaurus Rex 3 —my proudest work yet!”
Part of our Interview with ALESSANDRO MASTRONARDI
DAL: Alessandro, welcome to Digital Art Live. Our free magazine usually covers science-fiction, with occasional fantasy issues. Which means that the many superb real-life creature artists working in the Poser/DAZ space are rather unjustly overlooked. But we’re very pleased to have found a way to do a themed issue which can include one of DAZ’s leading creature-makers. And also, thanks very much for accepting the interview, and finding time in your busy schedule.
AM: Thanks for having me, my pleasure!
DAL: What first attracted you to large creatures? Was there perhaps some key moment in childhood which burned itself into your memory, perhaps a zoo or circus experience? Or did the interest emerge from the usual early-childhood interest in large creatures and dinosaurs?
AM: I was probably not older than four years, and was used to spending holidays at the seaside, when I witnessed a rather rare event: a beached whale in the Tyrrhenian sea. The sight, and indeed a close encounter with that gigantic animal, kind of fascinated and shocked me. ‘How could an animal could grow to such size?’ I only retain bits of memories about that early experience, but I would say that it definitely started me on to studying animals and wildlife, with a particular preference for giant ones.
DAL: I see. Were you trained in traditional art skills first? Or are you self-taught?
AM: I am self-taught. I also do some traditional painting, but I’m definitely into digital art!
DAL: Indeed, you’re a well known name on the DAZ Store. What were the first creatures you made for sale in 3D, and how did you overcome the difficulties you encountered in making them?
AM: Liopleurodon, Great White Shark, and later on a Sabertooth Tiger are the very first 3D models I made for sale. The major difficulty I encountered at that time was to actually match the 3D shape with reference data. Luckily Zbrush was already available by that time, and it was — and still is — the perfect tool for me.
It lets one finely tune and adapt a mesh to reference images. Also, the rigging of a 3D creature was hard for me at first, since it’s a procedure that takes time to understand and master. As with most things I do, I take the approach of ‘trial and error’, and try to teach myself knowledge following tutorials and hints online when available.
DAL: What were some of the “breakthrough” creatures which started to get you a lot more attention?
AM: I’d say the Great White shark — one of my very first models — which DAZ noticed and which they asked to ‘buy out’ for their store. Later on the Sabertooth Tiger which was been, to my knowledge, the first rigged animal with fur available for DAZ Studio!
DAL: It’s still a fine beast. I seem to remember the fur came with it as well, rather than needing a plugin. And you now, in 2019, have a very wide range of creatures available. Many are either prehistoric, or prehistoric survivals into the modern day — such as sharks, platypus, giant redwood trees etc. What is your workflow process, and software toolset, when you make a new creature?
AM: The first and perhaps most important step is to collect and gather good reference material, study the animal anatomy, understand its biomechanics and its features like feathers, fur cover and anatomic details. Time spent during this process will definitely result in a huge time-saving later, because it leads to more realistic shapes and clean geometry setup.
I usually start the initial 3D work in Zbrush, using Dynamesh to sketch out a draft shape, refining it little by little. During this process I use lot of reference images as backdrop, and I like to shape out the eyes and paint them as the first thing: when the eyes are there, the creature “comes alive”, its gaze drives me through the rest of the process!
Once the base shape is ready, most of the times I clean out the topology and improve polygon flow using Modo, which I also use to build the UV maps. When the model is cleaned, with solid topology and UV maps, it’s time to bring it back to Zbrush and proceed with sculpting and painting, trying to achieve the most realistic result. During the years I have built a large library of brushes for creature scales, different types of skin, pores, wrinkles, scars, fur and feathers: they are critical when it comes to adding detail to a mesh.
When the model and textures are finalized, it’s time to rig it in DAZ Studio or Maya, configuring all the joints to behave properly, setting up weight maps for smooth bending and packaging the model so that it can be used properly.