Epo (Lee Sung-hong)
Epo is a lighting artist from Million Volt – a Korean animation company. Through the love of arts, he is constantly creating personal projects, and learning new things as he is looking to devote himself in the VFX industry, and spread Korean VFX to the world.
To speed up his creations, Epo employs Character Creator 3 and the SkinGen Premium Plugin in his personal artworks.
“The trend in the industry is shifting towards creating high-quality works in a short period of time. As technology and AI development come together, this speed is increasing. It’s like the industry is telling us, ‘Don’t worry about anything else, just focus on Artwork.’ ”Epo – Lighting Artist
Q. Hello Epo! As a Lighting Artist, what are the most interesting and challenging parts of your work?
Everything is interesting. If I have to pick one, I think it would be using dummy props and characters to quickly compose a setup frame prior to filling in with the details. It takes a long time to get the details in, but it’s also worthwhile.
It’s very interesting to try to attract viewers’ attention through an image. I am always thinking about which way to induce the focus of the spectator towards the image. When I start a new project, I take it as a new challenge. Not only to develop myself, but also to see if there is a better approach.
An example is the process of using photo scans for a project called ‘Snowgirl‘, and the rainy parts of ‘Falling‘.
Q. How did you find out about Character Creator?
I discovered Character Creator while trying to find a way to save time to create high-quality works that fit my flow.
Initially, I found a character hairstyle sold by Daz3D, and used Daz3D simply to export the hair guide dummies. Then I got to know a company called Reallusion, and naturally familiarized myself with their Character Creator software.
Q. Do you use Character Creator in your work or personal projects?
Sure, I use Character Creator in my personal projects.
I like the fact that time spent on character modeling and texturing, which is usually very time-consuming, can be drastically reduced. Most of all, having characters that are already rigged is a very attractive proposition to me. In addition I find the ability to create various styles of characters -without being limited to photo-real characters, very empowering. And you can freely customize them by connecting to ZBrush.
I haven’t used Reallusion software at work as of yet, but I have recommended them to people and companies around me, and vouched for their usefulness. Some of the domestic companies I know are also conducting R&D on the Character Creator program.
Q. Can you share with us your experience in using Character Creator? What’s your workflow?
Step 1: Finding references
As with all projects, the first thing to do is to collect references. My ‘Falling‘ project was inspired by looking at actual rain. ‘Love Letter‘ was created after watching the movie ‘Flipped’, so I watched and observed the film several times for inspiration.
Step 2: Layout
I take a large layout with a very large mass; like a 3D cube. I then take a big camera shot to get the composition, and when I feel that I am getting off-track, my immediate response is to find more references. Thinking of the proper height and size of the character in Character Creator, I take it into Maya and take a shot of the dummy character’s rough pose. Once a very large frame has been created, the cube is then replaced with a suitable asset and replaced little by little with finalized props.
Step 3: Rough lighting
I proceed through rough lighting before adding details. This process is definitely a different pipeline compared to the way others work. In my case, I want to enjoy doing my personal work, so I start lighting early when I have the right form.
Step 4: Adding details
Finally I add the details to each set. Characters are created using Character Creator and other development tools, and the props that can be seen in the camera also receive additional details. For example, in the ‘Love Letter’ project, I adjusted the angle of the books which the female character is stepping on, re-adjusted the foreground props (set dressing), removed overlapping of the background and character silhouette, and so on. From this process, the small parts changed slightly, so the speed of creation is relatively slow.
Step 5: Final render
The final render and the existing color reference are used to complete the composing process.
Q. In your opinion, what are the benefits / advantages of using Character Creator?
It’s a program suitable for delivering high-quality creation in a short period of time. This program allows you to modify the character’s modeling in detail and also enables detailed texturing using Character Creator’s SkinGen plugin.
Being able to adjust a full character from head to toe is a big advantage of Character Creator as it’s easy to work with ZBrush, so it gives you much freedom in customizing, along with lots of content assets in the Reallusion’s Content Store, so that you can advance the starting point quite a bit.
It also possesses great advantages in the shading phase. It’s not just Base Color and Roughness map, but also a variety of Utility maps, so it’s really easy for other DCC tools (Digital Content Creation tools) to modify them to their liking. For example, when we make people, we sometimes segregate regions (using masks) in advance. The representative region masks are lips, forehead, eyes, ears, etc. All of these things that I mentioned are already masked, so they play a big role in reducing time.
Q. What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I will always continue to make my favorite work. If I’m busy at work, I may slow down my personal projects, but I won’t stop creating. I will make what I really want to create, rather than following a trend. I hope many people like it. With hope, I want to use my strength for the development of the VFX industry in Korea in the future. There are many interesting things to learn, so it’s a really fun industry. I hope that this industry will always remain and develop greatly so that Korea can contribute culturally to many people around the world.
Know more about Epo and his artworks: