Project Twitch: Loadout
3D Concept Art presents, Twitch: Loadout. A special projects interview with Sava Zivkovic, from Belgrad, Serbia. A project that started as a personal mission into hard surface modeling and its process as a case study. The project evolved and became a full-fledged title sequence.
It became a collaboration between friends, Sava Zivkovic (Direction, modeling and animation) , Milan Nikolic (Concept Art) , Iz Svemira (Sound, fx) and on the way to fulfilling this vision they got help by Take One with Motion Capture and additional animation.
3D Concept Art presents a special projects interview about Twitch: Loadout.
| 3D Concept Art: Tell us about your starting idea, how was it born and what was your main goal?
| Sava Živković: → The idea came from wanting to expand my skill set and trying out a different type of project than what I usually deal with, which is architectural visualization and motion graphics. At first, it was just meant to be a modeling project but after we threw out some ideas it was apparent that the project had a huge learning potential.
So we formed a small team of friends, Milan Nikolic who was responsible for the character design, Iz Svemira who dealt with music and sound design, and lastly myself, I was responsible for the direction and all 3d aspects. The main goal was to produce a short which would act as a case study, in which we could demonstrate our new found skills, but more importantly, we wanted to improve in working on bigger projects as a team.
| 3CA: Did you do any type of research before the project started to understand what you needed to fulfill the vision, and to narrow down specifics?
| S.Z: → Yes but not extensively. The most research time went into figuring out which software to use for the texturing process since working with properly laid out UVs and texturing for production was something new to me. Other than that there wasn’t much preproduction since the nature of the project was very free form and a lot of things were figured out along the way.
| 3CA: Under your conceptual phase, designing the suit, the armor, what did you felt was the most interesting, in aspect learning and finding the most visually interesting design?
| Milan Nikolic: → For me finding the most visually interesting design comes from being able to follow my own design instincts and create my own rules and constraints. Since the nature of the project was personal, and there were no clients involved with their own requirements, I was able to get lost in the design process and experiment with a lot of different styles.
I always gravitate towards the more organic design, even if it’s geared towards hard surface, something about it just speaks to me and I personally love how the organic lines and shapes play off each other, creating this sense of flow in the whole character
Suit Concept by Milan Nikolic, ZBrush model and retopo by Sava Živković. Environment modeling by Sava Živković
| 3CA: What were your challenges when trying to blend hard surface modeling and organic forms, following your concept and achieve the similarity that was needed for the suit?
| S.Z: → Well for one, I’ve never modeled anything like this before so I’d say the whole modeling process was very challenging. The most challenge I had was with the topology, a lot of mistakes were discovered only later when I rigged the model and saw where the breaking points were.
As for following the concept, that was fairly straightforward since I come from architecture background so working off drawings just comes naturally to me.
| 3CA: During the texturing process, what methods did you use, software and in which resolution did you end with for the different shots?
| S.Z: → The initial UVs were created in 3ds max, my main 3d package, and were then fine-tuned in Zbrush. I opted for using Quixel suite over Substance Painter as my main texturing program for a couple of reasons. I found that Quixel shipped with more material/mask/brush presets and also had the option of exporting 8k and even 16k textures, where Substance Painter only exported 4k at the time.
Working with Quixel was a breeze, it really automates the texture creation process and leaves you time to focus on other aspects of your project. In the end, all of the textures were exported in 8k resolution to facilitate for potential close up shots.
| 3CA: The short or proof of concept has different environments, indoor to outdoors, which challenges did you face when using motion capture and getting that animation into those fictional environments and what do you recommend to think about beforehand?
| S.Z: → The MoCap part was really easy because I had the pleasure of working with Take One and those guys really know their stuff! At the end of the process, I received the animated FBX files that I just had to import into the scenes and position where I want.
The only advice I could give is to prepare and know exactly what you want. Treat the MoCap process like a film shoot, Have a previz or a detailed storyboard with described moves you need to record and make sure everyone understands what you’re after.
| 3CA: Did you use any previs to get the animation right to better understand what your team was aiming for? Was it any key-frame animation involved for cleaning up after motion capture before timing it with the sound? How did you solve it?
| S.Z: → Yes, a couple of versions of previs existed long before we even knew we were doing MoCap animation. Previs is crucial whenever you’re making any sort of short film or animation, and I often find that most of the creative decisions are made in that stage. As for cleanup, there’s always a need for some manual adjustments because even with the most amazing MoCap systems available, you will have some small errors that need to be accounted for. That part was all Take One, they recorded the animations and did all of the cleanup work.
The music existed before the motion capture stage, but we recorded all of the moves with a lot of wiggle room so we could easily adjust the length of the shots to match with the score. As for the sound that usually comes at the last stage when everything is already locked in the edit.
Motion Capture Studio, Take One. Additional Animation, Take One. Sound, Iz Svemira
| 3CA: Which software did you use for modeling and rendering, what made it possible by using those tools? And how were you able to achieve those realistic and moody renderings?
| S.Z: → 3ds Max and Octane render were and still are my main programs of choice. The graphite modeling tools in Max were very helpful at times and I could go on and on about how awesome Octane render is! Just to be clear, achieving good renders can be done in any render engine, I strongly believe it’s not down to the tool, but rather it’s down to the person using the tool. But having said that, Octane excels in bringing production quality animation renders to freelancers and people who don’t have access to huge render farms. You still need a powerful PC, this project was rendered on a 4 GPU workstation, but if you compare that to a CPU render farm the price is significantly lower.
As for the renders themselves, a lot of the mood is achieved in post by adding fog and dust elements, as well as extensive color grading and smaller fx. But no matter the qualities and characteristics of your images I strongly believe that the music and sound play equal if not greater role in setting the tone and bringing your animation or film to life.
| 3CA: Project sometimes get bigger than expected, what were the biggest challenges and what changed your vision during the project?
| S.Z: → Yeah that was the very case with our project! The biggest limitation was the character animation since I’m no character animator. The initial idea was to have everything in slow motion, that way we could hide the imperfections, but the project evolved once we got in touch with Take One. When they offered to record the MoCap for us we knew we were no longer constrained by the simple moves. That’s when things changed and when we introduced the exterior action scene.
| 3CA: What is your advice when it comes to making this type of projects and actually being able to finish them?
| S.Z: → The main advice I could give is to stick to it and finish what you started, even at the cost of failing. Too many times people start working on their personal projects but never finish because whatever reason is preventing them. If you stick to it, obviously other than gaining new skills, you build perseverance and confidence and you find it much easier to tackle bigger projects in the future.
3D Concept Art Community thanks Milan Nikolic, Sava Sivkovic and Iz Svemira for this interview about Project Twitch: Loadout. Also for sharing his knowledge and advices about this type projects. A personal mission that became a nice collaboration with friends and ended in a full-fledged title sequence.