Recently I wrote an article for 3d total magazine describing the making of Ronaldo Fenomeno caricature. I am very flattered with this invitation.
Making of Ronaldo Fenomeno
Since Ronaldo announced his retirement, I was tempted to make a caricature of him. Brazilian people had a lot of nice moments watching his great matches in brazilian squad, why not create this tribute to him? I know, sometimes a caricature may be closer of bullying than a tribute, including I got a lot of troubles in my childhood for use caricature to make jokes with other kids. Flashbacks aside, humor can be a nice tribute and I think that this piece isn't different. I tried to portray his awesome phase when he played the 2002 World Cup with his funny hair and teeth.
I began with some sketches to find out a cool caricature deformation. I did several roughs trying to understand the physiognomy of Ronaldo. His countenance was a very trick step in this process, he has a kind of crafty and joker look mixed with a spontaneous smile. The visual composition could remember the number nine (number of his shirt) without forget to register his pointing finger when celebrating a goal score. This image below was my favorite among my roughs, so I assumed it like the main concept.
Modeling and Texturing
In Zbrush I started the modeling process using zspheres, what gave a very funny first look to the work. ZSpheres are a nice way to get a initial mesh to work, specially in body parts. Using x axis symmetry, I quickly get a good armature.
In this stage I tried to improve the adaptive skin result adding some magnets to the hand armature (Alt+click in a ZSphere on draw mode).
After that, the upper body armature was read to be posed and sculpted. The head armature was a difficult step because of face deformation. The upper lip would have to be huge to cover the teeth size and this attribute made the face modeling process a little different than usual. I couldn't create a user friendly polygon topology in this initial stage, deal with ZSpheres to get a nice polygon flow and think in caricature deformation almost made me freak out. For this reason my goal was to create an initial mesh with a good distribution of polygons based on facial main volumes. The ZSphere setup gave a really funny look to the armature and to the adaptive skin. You can see for yourself :).
At this moment I considered the head armature ready to create a mesh with workable polygons distribution to the sculpt process. I created the face sculpture without think in polygons, just imagining the mesh like clay and trying to have some fun. The process was very intuitive and fluid, what doesn't mean that was short. The most part of time dispended to this illustration was the face modeling. After four days I reached a modeling that made me satisfied.
This result was very nice to me. The caricature looks resemblant with Ronaldo (with his excuses :P) and I had a good laugh. The laughs end up when I saw the boring task that was waiting for me. The polygon topology wasn't good. When I tried to increase the polycount to paint details like wrinkles, the polygons simply don't got enough resolution where I needed. Oh nice! Have some fun modeling and later be punished with retopology... Ok, I deserved that. I passed five hours crying and a couple hours making the retopology. Wasn't so painful duty. In fact was very productive, with less polygons I got a better result mesh.
Finally with a good head and body mesh I could get some fun sculpting all details without guilt. This step was really really enjoyable! Two things brought me confidence to this delight: first have a solid base mesh to work with, second to be familiar with the workflow Zbrush to Maya (my intent was render the caricature in Maya).
Afterwards, I used UVMaster to unwrap the uvw mesh, what save me from another boring task, and painted all textures along the model. The hair, eyebrows and upper lip beard was three attributes that I gave special attention to characterize Ronaldo appearance. Sure, the teeth exaggeration was very important too. I recognize that maybe I was a little badly in this point, maybe I will burn in hell... but came on! Who don't laugh, cast the first stone! Just kidding...
One map that liked to paint was the scatter map. It was among several maps generated to material setup. To export maps and meshes, I used Multi Map Exporter Zplugin. Now was just import meshes and maps to setup the scene in Maya.
There, I used Shave to create hair, eye cilia and arm fur. I combined this with the painted color texture to try a better result.
A last thing that I did was add sweat specular and drops to the composition. In my mind, Ronaldo was celebrating a goal score during a match, so I decided to append this little detail. Using paint geometry tool in Maya, I added sweat drops to the model. In Zbrush I painted a sweat specular map and exported back to Maya.
With all materials ready, I went ahead to illuminate the scene.
Ligthing and Rendering
Even don't putting crowds and reflectors on final image, the location that I imagined was a soccer stadium, where there are many light sources. I worked with a main and a secondary light to reproduce this. Besides that, I used several spot lights to highlight some details, like eyes specular and shirt tissue.
One approach that I did was to use auxiliary geometry light sources with final gathering to obtain a soft rim light and ground light bounce. I've put two polygons surfaces behind and one below the model with a bright incandescence color and primary visibility disabled. Turning on final gathering, this surfaces behaves like light sources, creating nice soft lights.
To render the scene I used mental ray in Maya, and separated some render passes. The hair and fur I rendered in a totally separated pass because it increases to much the render time. I like to render a normal pass to use in Photoshop to help in possibles corrections and effects. In this image I used it to improve the rim light final appearance and to highlight some unwanted dark areas.
I composed the final image in Photoshop, making some color adjustments and adding some post effects like glows and depth of field. To the background I choose to use a bokeh composition representing crowd cameras flashes with pentagon shapes of the soccer ball.
This illustration was a very enjoyable and instructive experience. The final result could have a lot of improvements, every time that I look to this illustration I see something that could be better, but also I am very proud about this work. Most of people that looked to this caricature just have the reaction that I expected: loud laughs. This is very nice. Sure that other people felt disgust. This is nice too, because I think that this work actually is disgusting. I think my tribute was to use my disgusting work to show that I am a big fan of "soccer club Ronaldo" as well.
Thank you very much for taking your time reading this article! I hope you enjoyed :).