Photography has always inspired me; I love especially shots of nature and wildlife from magazines like The National Geographic. During a recent travel in the South East of Asia, I visited Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand and I took many photos of all the animals living there. There is no better reference material to use than the one you personally create wink
From a crocodile farm with over 100.000 crocodiles to elephants, and of course, tigers. I've never seen in my life so many Bengal tigers (more than 200) all one single place, it was amazing.
As for all my 3d models I didn't want to create it only for an attempt at a realistic render. I also wanted it for future animation purposes, and that's why I wanted to do all the steps ranging from the standard lowpoly model - to the posed highpoly renders.
I used Maya 8.5 for the modeling, MentalRay for rendering, Photoshop for creating the textures and Shave and HairCut for the fur of the head.
Using a simple polygon plane and extruding it according to the global shape, I created the head first. Then I moved it to the rest of the body, leaving holes where the legs where to be connected.
This is my preferred modeling technique because I can keep on switching between the four views, which will allow me to have good control over the step-by-step modeling process. Once I was satisfied with the results, I went to model the legs in the same way... started by extruding the edge from the legs' holes and finally I extruded the paws' faces to obtain the nails.
At this point, I checked the geometry topology in order to obtain quads and loops. Finally I modeled the gum, tongue and teeth. In addition to the photo taken at the Zoo, I used some scientific skeletal references found online.
I modeled each tooth starting from a polygonal box, pulling vertices and pushing vertices and I ended up with 4030 polys for the main tiger mesh and 3166 polys for eyeballs, teeth, gum and tongue.
Then I had to start the UV mapping process before adding details. I needed to mirror the UV layout, and in order to do that first, I made the UVs for half of the model and then duplicated the other half and mirrored the UVs by flipping them.
I used various projections to make the UVs using planar and cylindrical mapping tools... For some parts like ears and portions of the chest, I made some detached projection in order to avoid some stretching when I had to apply the textures.
I used a simple checker, applied to a Lambert shader, to check the overall process while tweaking the UVs.
After the UVs, I made a polysmooth of the model and started using the Maya Sculpting tool to achieve some detail by playing with punch, pull, smooth and the very useful relax tool (new addition in Maya 8.5).
I believe that the texturing part is extremely important as the majority of the final effect is created by the textures. I decided to go for a 4k resolution map which I think was good enough to achieve the textures' details such as the fur stripes.
In Photoshop I started creating the textures using a Wacom tablet with a mixture of photographs previously taken at the zoo and freehand painting. I used the clone tool as well as custom brushes, always switching between Maya and Photoshop to check how the textures behaved on the model.
Once I was pleased with the Photoshop work I moved on to adjust the seams. The texture's seams were created by the edges where the UVs were cut during the mapping process and I used the Maya 3D Paint Tool to correct them, using especially the clone tool. I finally went back into Photoshop to create the other maps: specular, bump and diffuse. I used a Blinn shader for the body, a Phong for the eyeballs and a Blinn for the teeth.
Posing the Tiger
I decided to go for a pretty classic pose, with the tiger lying on the rocks. In order to do that, I first created a rock starting from a polygonal plane making it pretty dense, and sculpting it using the sculpting tool to achieve the desired shape. I made a UV projection and applied a texture created from my photos. For the background I used a simple plane with part of the same texture applied.
I built a simple rig for posing the tiger. Then I adjusted the mesh to achieve the different muscles definition given by the actual pose.
Shave and Haircut
This was the first time I was used Shave and a Haircut and I immediately noticed how powerful this tool is. I decided to put the fur only on the tiger's head and in some side parts of the legs and paws because for the rest of the body, I thought I could achieve a pretty good fur simulation through only the use of textures.
I created a total of six hair systems. Now I will focus on the main head fur; taking into consideration that for the other hair systems, I'll have used the same procedure which I am about to explain.
I selected the head's faces excluding the nose, inside of the mouth and the area around the eyes and I went to Shave ---> Created New Hair. The first time I did that, I noticed that the hair normals were pointing inside of the mesh so I reversed the normals and created the hair system again. Everything was fine this time round.
Using the Brush tool, I started scaling the hair according to the photos and when I was satisfied with the hair length I used "Recomb Hair". This command made the hair comb nicely around the head. The only thing left to do was to use the Translate and the Puff tool to fine-tune the hair style.
Then in the Material Properties of the Hair system I assigned the tiger's color texture to the Tip and Root Colors and the specular to the specular field. In the screenshot you can see my settings for that hair system.
To be able to render the hair out using MentalRay, I went to 'Shave Globals' and selected 'Hair Primitives' as Hair Render Mode. I also enabled the Irradiance in the ShaveGlobals---> MentalRay tab in order to involve the hair's shader in the Final Gathering process.
To setup the scene I created a camera and enabled the depth of field. To further explain how I managed the depth of field: I made a “Distance tool” placing one locator point of focus on the model (in this case it was the point of the tiger nose), and the other on the Camera lens. Then I parented the locator to the camera so that every time I moved the Camera, the dimensional value also changed and I had the exact value to insert in the 'Focus Distance” field. Then I played with the F-Stop and Focus Region Scale till I found a DOF result I liked.
For lighing the scene, I used an HDRI probe and three PointLights. I enabled one of them to RayTrace the Shadows and increased the 'Light Radius' to 3000 and the 'Shadows Ray' to 5 in order to soften them.
For the Mental Ray rendering settings, I used the Gauss filter with Min =1 Max =3 Sample Levels.
The final render is 3636 x 2772 and it took about 15 hours on a Quad Pentium. I then made an Ambient Occlusion pass and added it within Photoshop. I duplicated it in two different layers, setting one 'Multiply' and the other 'Overlay', I tweaked those layer's transparency then enhanced the contrast and the color gamma till I was happy with the final result.
Next I tried another angle view of the tiger because I wanted to try and get a different feeling. I changed the camera angle focusing on his head. That was pretty much the same pose, I only changed the head and neck position.
I learned a lot throughout the 'Making' of this image and loved playing with Maya, Photoshop and Shave and Haircut trying to do what I really like. Hopefully I have given an insight into the idea behind the creation of this Zoo's young tiger. I also hope it will prove helpful in some ways to all who are reading.
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dude this is amazing! ive gotta try this!