Concept Art MasterClass #1: Getting Started and Sketches

Gnomon Instructor and Senior Concept Artist Kyle Brown shares a groundbreaking workflow

As the world of 3D art and animations continues to expand into a new renaissance, animators and artists alike are rushing to find the best, most efficient tools to bring their visions to life. To CG artists, the ability to seamlessly move through the workflow of concept to finished product is invaluable. From rigging and posing character models, to the generation of textures and skins, and finally the pipeline to outside 3D tools, these artists require the best possible tools at their fingertips. And for Senior Concept Artist Kyle Brown and his students, having such tools is essential.

Kyle Brown, a veteran of the CG world, Kyle has worked within the field since 2015 and has had his hand in a number of projects throughout the film and television industry. He also currently is an instructor at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects where he is able to share his expertise with others.

Kyle is not a character modeler. Any 3D he has learned has been out of necessity to make the conceptual designs he creates more efficient. For the longest time, the only 3D package he utilized was ZBrush with programs like Keyshot to render.

This is Kyle’s first time using Character Creator and SkinGen Premium Plug-in. After this project, he shared the work he has done using Character Creator, and he is constantly telling friends and peers who work in the industry and use the same tools about Character Creator 3 and how valuable it has been to his work as a whole.

In this demo, Kyle will walk you through the steps of using Character Creator 3 from the earliest steps to render out a simple image to sketch on top of to using that same avatar to send to ZBrush to sculpt and dress, then to finish back in Character Creator 3 where we resolve textures, lighting and rendering of our Cyberpunk creation.

This Master Class comes in 7 parts, each carries its own tutorial video to guide you through the entire process of how Kyle incorporates Character Creator, Photoshop, ZBrush, and other tools to create the concept art. You can find links to the other 6 tutorials below.

Part #1: Getting Started and Sketches

There are plenty of options in the 3D marketplace, but from the first time I opened Character Creator 3 was clear that it was a step beyond. A real time render window gives me an up to the second preview of my character creations. This was extremely valuable to start the whole process as I was able to find and place the female character of my choice into the scene and use some basic, yet impactful stock lighting to bring it all together. Since This was going to be the same character, I would use for the rest of the design process, I knew that whatever I sketched on top to have approved, would be fully achievable on the proportions of my avatar.

The base body render straight out Character Creator 3 that will serve as the base of our cyberpunk Android sketches.

I utilized the perspective and lighting built into the initial render to quickly sketch out ideas for her costume. This offers an efficient way to create and be creative without having to juggle a bunch of balls like blocking out the underlying anatomy for every concept.

The Sketches might not be the prettiest, but variety is the name of the game with early exploration. I want it to be clean enough that it reads and will convey exactly what I plan on doing with the final to the client, meaning I want hard surface pieces to look like hard surfaces pieces, cloth like cloth and skin to look like skin as a few examples.

After the first wave of initial sketches, completed in grey scale so the client can look at the shapes alone, I utilize the client’s feedback and some inspiration to explore some color options. I really enjoy the color palettes of any Cyberpunk universe, whether they are dark and gritty, muted with pops of neon, or an over the top ‘extreme’ aesthetic based in future street fashions and extreme sports.

I explore some refined facial details for the new features in SkinGen inside of CC3. Looking through the features, I saw there is an ability to apply decals or cuts to the skin that I figured would be perfect for the traditional cybernetic cutlines on cyborgs and androids.

I opted for a blend of the two, something with a tactical purpose but something that would stand out. Saying it now, it might sound like a contradiction, but visually I want it to look purposeful but still look sleek and unique.

I quickly blocked out some color, not being too precious with fine details, but opting for more of a graphic read, something the client can quickly look at and give immediate reactions and input to. Once we get the greenlight on the options, or make quick modifications of the presented versions, we are ready to jump back into CC3 and ZBrush!

Follow the other 6 tutorials in this series:

Part #2: Costume & Asset Creation in ZBrush

Part #3: Refining and Adding Details in ZBrush

Part #4: Generating Textures and Importing into Character Creator 3

Part #5: Lighting and Posing a Character in Character Creator 3

Part #6: Costume Variation and Texture Modification

Part #7: Comping Renders, Paint, and Finish

“Cardi Tries” Facebook Watch series takes Cardi into the game with Reallusion & Actor Capture

The 2020 Billboard Woman of the Year and Grammy-winning artist – Cardi B teamed up with Facebook for a series that featured Cardi in a number of experiences which were all caught on camera.  Cardi B was joined by her husband – Offset, to experience motion capture, create a game character and get themselves into the game as they go through the motions at a rapid pace to see what it takes to build a game featuring custom characters from Character Creator, animations from Reallusion’s ActorCore, mocap with Xsens motion tracking, iClone motion editing, all into the Unreal Engine.  This is “Cardi Tries… Gaming”.

The reality TV series features custom characters, motion capture and animation from the Reallusion pipeline wielded by Atlanta, GA based crew from Actor Capture featuring James Martin (master of ceremonies and TD), Joel Mack (Unreal Engine, Xsens MVN, iClone), Max Thomas (Unreal Engine, LED wall), and John Martin (Reallusion Character Creator).

Cardi Tries Gaming – Facebook Watch – 2021 – Episode 7

Episode 7 was filmed December 2020 in Pacoima, CA near Burbank on the XRStage. The team from Actor Capture worked with Jesse Collins Productions, Director Brenden Carter and Facebook’s production team to plan the shoot, find the location at XR Stage and develop the experience of the characters, mocap, and  game levels from start to finish. Actor Capture utilized Xsens, iPhone, Character Creator, iClone with Unreal Engine to bring everything together for the two games. 

James Martin, Joel Mack and director – Brenden Carter during pre production with Xsens MVN

The motion capture was made possible through the Reallusion pipeline, Xsens and the iPhone powered by iClone Motion Live to animate the Character Creator characters of Cardi and Offset.

James Martin welcomed Cardi and Offset to the stage after they were briefed on the events of the day and suited up in their Xsens Link motion capture suits. The motion capture led Cardi and Offset through sword fighting, melee combat and special finishing moves. James directed the combat scenarios while Joel Mack and Max Thomas were engineering the stage and capture workstations. A camera and production crew of over 40 people were surrounding everyone to shoot the show during the capture.

The character building process for the game characters included feedback from Cardi and Offset during the shooting as they directed their design in realtime. We started with four characters prepared in different game genres using Character Creator

Cardi even got in on the creation and took the controls to customize her digital double’s body, face and hair.  Character Creator enabled fast creation, on set collaboration in real-time and quick export to the Unreal Engine projects.

Cardi and Offset selected items from the Character Creator library to customize their characters during the production filming.  The entire episode was filmed in one take with the duo truly sharing their reactions of each step of the process.

The character creation process was displayed on the XRstage LED wall while John worked with Cardi B and Offset to design their game characters.  The couple enjoyed making some tweaks to their characters and experienced the speed of building digital humans in real-time with Character Creator

Behind-The-Scenes iClone Animation Cardi B and Offset for Cardi Tries Gaming

After Cardi and Offset finished their motion capture session with James, and they each worked with John to design a character with Character Creator, we captured some impromptu dialog with iClone.

Facial animation captured during the shoot was simple with iClone Motion Live, iPhone and LiveFace.  The end result was provided by Actor Capture and used by Facebook Watch as a cut-scene throughout the episode.  The full animation was given to production as 4K video renders from iClone and the producers at Facebook selected clips to add in the episode.  The final edit added animated shots from Cardi and Offset using the iClone capture. This was a great example of Reallusion Character Creator and iClone going from concept to production and approval, for inclusion of multiple shots in the final edit.  

Unreal Engine game characters and scenes were created with Character Creator and the assets from the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Cardi Quest and Cardi Combat featured 3rd person fighting in two different styles that allowed Cardi B and Offset to face off in head to head combat or try and clear all the levels while fighting enemies to win. These vertical slices were made to provide an end to our story and finally get Cardi and Offset into the game. With the massive help of Reallusion tools, Actor Capture was able to make it all happen. The games created for the show are featured in a reel below with some clips for each game level.

The full production took place over the course of one day of shooting and since airing on Facebook Watch the “Cardi Tries Gaming,” episode has reached 3.9 million views. 

For more information about Actor Capture visit:

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