Thorn Wishes Talon!
For today, I would like to delve deeper into something from my previous post, namely my attempt at sculpting a 3D CGI version of Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn’s face. I do of course realise that this moves somewhat beyond the usual content featured on this blog, but I hope that some of you, at least, will still find this interesting.
As I have already told you, I am having a blast playing around with Dreams – MediaMolecule’s weird and wonderful game development engine on the PS4 – recently, and I can tell you that I am legitmately – if maybe irrationally – excited about this stuff, mostly because it feels like actually learning some completely new skills.
Anyway, here’s where we left off last time:
A reasonably complete sculpt of an old guy with some metal stuck to his face — hopefully well on his way to being recognisable as the Gregor Eisenhorn we all know and love Before we move on, however, I think I should maybe give you a bit more context. Remember how I said in my last post that this was only my second attempt at 3D/CGI modeling? Well, here’s the first attempt, created a few days before I started on the Eisenhorn project:
Anyway, I think this should show you how it has been a bit of a steep learning curve for me
While I was reasonably happy with my first attempt for a while, I quickly started feeling unsatisfied with it: The cartoony nature really just seemed like a bit of an excuse for coming up with a fairly hokey sculpt, the longer I thought about it. So I decided that my next project would go for a somewhat more realistic angle.
Why Eisenhorn, though? I think the idea appealed to me for several reasons: The sculpt would be quite a challenge, while also allowing me to explore several different elements (such as creating human features as well as augmetic, metallic implants) at the same time. I also really wanted to do something hobby related in this new medium, to be honest — and I had this half-formed plan of not stopping with the sculpt, but of creating something like a little vignette, a little slice of the 40k universe, so to speak.
Dreams is the first program I have ever used to create something in 3D, so I cannot tell you how it compares to other software. I would venture a guess that its main feature – the fact that everything is basically assembled by building up geometric shapes (mostly … ) and blending them together – is probably the same for most 3D modeling software. That being said, it does have its quirks and idiosyncrasies — such as the fact that you are doing it all holding a controller (and frantically so, in many cases). This sometimes seems to make things a bit harder than they need to be, and yet the challenge created by this also somewhat appeals to the lifelong gamer in me, to be honest
One thing that really takes some getting used to is to get things placed in exactly the right spot — and while I made good use of Dreams’ options for displaying grids and mirroring working steps, the early phase of creating the sculpt was really slow, careful and deliberate going:
As you can see, I carefully built up the features by adding more shapes (mostly spheroids). If you have the blending effect turned up on your various shapes, this actually does feel a bit like actual sculpting, because of the way the piece starts to deform rather organically when you add new shapes. So I slowly worked my way towards something resembling an actual face:
This is very much my baseline face sculpt that I could probably return to for other projects, if needed (I have a half-baked idea making a copy and tweaking it to have broader, more Astartes-like features, just as a proof of concept).
The next step was to add more details, such as wrinkels and scars, in order to make the face look more realistic. Which gave me this finished sculpt:
And here’s a detail look at the face, showing you the added detail I talked about. Due to the way sculpting works in Dreams, those wrinkles were actually “sculpted” onto the underlying face, using a tiny sphere as a brush, so to speak, then using it to create tiny depressions in the skin, instead of applying a “painted” texture map:
Now I do of course realise that this face isn’t photo-realistic in any sense of the word, and that it still has a somewhat stylised look. On top of that, there are also all kinds of minor anatomic problems (don’t get me started on those ears, for instance). But when all is said and done, I would argue that the face at least looks fairly believable, if nothing else.
I wasn’t even done, however, because I still wanted to legitimately turn this into Gregor Eisenhorn.
Throughout the whole project, my main point of reference was this classic piece of artwork, still pretty much my favourite depiction of the venerable Inquisitor:
The artwork originally appeared on the back of the Inquisitor rulebook, and I just love the amount of character in detail in it (so much so, in fact, that I also used it as a model for one of my, slightly dodgy, digital painting attempts earlier this year).
Anyway, the artwork really provided me with lots of extra detail to tweak my sculpt, especially when it comes to facial scarring and the way those implants are integrated into Eisenhorn’s skull.
Before we move on, I would be remiss not to mention that there actually already is a CGI version of old Eisenhorn, namely this interpretation from Pixel Hero Games’ “Eisenhorn: Xenos” videogame:
But while I like that interpretation well enough, it also seemed a bit too, I don’t know, beefy for me? I wanted some proper old man features on Gregor (hence the larger ears and somewhat wizened look on my own sculpt).
Which leads us right back to the beginning: Here’s Eisenhorn’s face again, now with the first augmetic additions. As you can see in the bottom left, I also modeled a couple of tubes and connection ports that I would copy and place all over the head in order to recreate Eisenhorn’s implants.
Once those augmetics were in place, I used more sculpted shapes to blend them into the rest of the head and make the skin around them look irritated and lumpy. Once again, everything you see basically consists of geometric shapes (more spheres, in this case) that have been blended together. The picture below also shows you Dreams’ UI and toolbar for the sculpting mode:
One reason why sculpting Eisenhorn’s head was such a useful learning experience was that the sculpt actually combines very different textures: Eisenhorn’s skin was going to be matte and soft-looking while I wanted his various implants to have a hard, metallic look. This was achieved by giving both areas different finishes. The blue-ish colour of the metal is actually the reflected background colour!
It was always clear to me that I would eventually use Eisenhorn’s head in some kind of staged scene, and once I had the finished face, I moved right on to that. In order for his head to seem even more believable, I quickly threw together a mockup for his iconic high collar (by simply using a cylinder shape and cutting a part out of it):
I then tried an early mockup of the intended scene, with Eisenhorn in a suitably (grim)dark locale, with a servo-skull hovering over his shoulder. Here’s an early impression of that test build:
As you can see, the lighting instantly changes the entire atmosphere. Here’s a picture from when I was zeroing in on the exact kind of lighting conditions I wanted. The servo-skull also looks more refined — although it was merely “jury-rigged” by adding some of my augmetic gubbinz to a readymade skull from MediaMolecule’s gallery of useable objects):
But while I liked the general look of the piece, the messy collar was really starting to bother me at this point, so back to the drawing board I went: I tried a slightly more involved attempt, and while the result still isn’t a perfect recreation of Eisenhorn’s look, I liked it much better:
I also used this opportunity to add a few additional flourishes, while I was at it, such as veins showing beneath the skin and a few tweaks to his augmetic implants, including some glowing lights:
And then it was back to assembling my little scene. Here you see the entire stage, so to speak, with all of the controls in view and the studio lighting turned on to make it easier to tweak the scene:
The little purple shapes surrounding the model are cameras that I placed by hand, because I wanted to end up with a short scene of the camera moving around Eisenhorn, in order to show off the fact that this was actually a fully realised 3D scene.
As for the surrounding scene, I have to point out that I only really created the character bust, while everything else came from fellow Dreamers’ assets — in fact, one really great thing about Dreams is that, while you can of course build everything by yourself, there’s always a huge library of wonderful building blocks at your fingertips.
Anyway, here’s the same scene with the lighting effects “turned on”, as it were:
And here, without further ado, is my little scene showing my interpretation of Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn:
I am actually crazy happy with this outcome, even if there’s still much room for improvement, to be sure! Oh, and there’s even a short video, to show you how this stuff is even properly 3D, and everything:
Many thanks must go to my fellow Dreamers magister95, ZIIQ, Lucki_Lady, PulsarFlux, shredderweats, oreo123456789109, thebiv, BonMotGuy_ and Lobselvith_Black for their excellent assets! :)for their fantastic assets — like I said, I only really created the head and shoulders, the rest of the scene came from the work of those very talented people. Oh, and by the same token, if you are on Dreams as well, feel free to peruse my head sculpts for your own projects! They are called “Lined patrician face version 1” and “Lined patrician face version 2” — in fact, as of this writing, one fellow user has already used dear old Gregor’s head as the villain in a recreated Power Ranger scene, of all things
So anyway, that’s it for today’s – slightly different – update. While the subject might have been beyond my usual content today, I would nevertheless love to hear any thoughts you might have, so feel free to leave a comment!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more — and please stay safe and healthy during these challenging times!