SCI-FI CHARACTER DESIGN
CGI REPTILE CHARACTER
The inspiration for this character began with the idea to create a movie with my kids. They love watching all sorts of exciting and action packed action and science fiction movies with me. However, I came to the conclusion that my kids didn’t have a clue about what was real and what was not in those movies. They have always been interested in some form of the arts. So, I assumed this would be a great way to share my knowledge with them and increase my skills in areas that I was weak in. The first part I needed to figure out was what the character looked like.
I was on vacation sketching and making all sorts of ideas of what I wanted to this thing to be. I originally had ideas of making this guy look like a reptilian alien thing. It would probably stand roughly 6-7 feet tall and was stranded for a while on a remote planet.
I began to start blocking out the shape of the character. He is a digitigrade, so he has to have similar legs to a dinosaur. Digitigrades walk on the ball of the foot. So, what looks like a backwards knee is actually their heel. I also wanted to give them kind of round lizard belly. I had a couple iguanas growing up. One of them, named Bob, was pretty fat.
After I modeled the basic shape, I began to digitally sculpt the large details and shapes. I used a lot of reptile references and also took some liberties of my own.
I really wanted to give him a look of a humanoid reptile. Like most reptiles, their skin is loose in some areas and not in others. So, I showed that a lot around his neck and fatty areas. After I got the body shape and large details out of the way, I began focusing more on the details.
I sculpted the scales around the face and head by hand. For the body I used a handful of blended alpha stencils. One things that I left out is, that I considered having a quick way to swap between high resolution versions of the character and low versions without multiple models. Blender has a built-in add-on called the “Multires Modifier.” I can sculpt my high details but later can drop the resolution when I need to animated the lop poly mesh later. You can see the example below how I can switch between the versions easily.
Creating a working and animatable character is no easy task. The body moves in a lot of different ways. Being able to get the correct rotations and shifting of the body is hard. Being able to switch between IK (Inverse kinematics) and FK (Forward Kinematics) is important depending on the character’s movement. I created simple controllers that allowed me to quickly switch between them was imperative. I also created a simple library of blender shapes that allows for quick actions like eyes blinking or the chest rising and falling during breathing. If that’s not enough, I needed to create drivers that controlled shape keys in troublesome areas of the model.
So, after a long period of trial and error, I completed the rigging portion of the character. I did some test poses and some simple test animations. The next part of creating a realistic CGI character is muscle physics. I spent a good amount of time trying to research how the muscles move and which ones push and pull. Not to mention figuring out which ones I wanted to jiggle with gross movements. I created some basic simulations to start my research.
In this image you can see the upper/lower trapezius, deltoid, tricep, bicep, and forearm extensors. Some of these muscle have added physics (Jiggle) and others just displace the skin.
Once I finished the body of the character, I started thinking about clothing and armor. I also considered different variations of the character that can be used throughout the movie. One stranded monster on the planet that the main characters land on and other versions that attack the ship they are on.
For cloth and leather, I used the demo version of Marvelous Designer. That application is an area I need to develop. However, I can create simple fabric simulations in Blender as well. It’s just easier to simulate in Marvelous Designer. See final version of each character iteration.