When I started working in 3D more than 15 years ago, I began with Blender because that's what I could afford. After years of developing my craft I began using more expensive software like Cinema 4D, Maya, Adobe's Creative Suite, 3D Coat, Substance Designer, Quixel Suite, and then some. I've always kept an eye on Blender's development, and still use it for odd tasks, but it's not been my main tool as a professional. For this project I wanted to return my 3D roots and do the project end-to-end in Blender.
The Dyntopo mesh result is garbage, but it's quick and dirty and gets us our basic shapes. Since this will be textured and animated I had to do some retopo clean up. Blender's retopo tools are surprisingly good. They're not on par with 3D coat, or C4D, but with the right add-ons (again Pitiwazou comes to the rescue) they can handle the task.
Above you can see an example of the high-res mesh vs the clean low-res, as well as the UVs of the jaw.
Blender's UV tools are really enjoyable to work with. It's unwrap algorithm is on point and requires very little tweaking if you've marked the seams properly. Using proportional editing makes fixing up any distortion an easy fix. Little tip on that, use a linear falloff instead of a bell curve and you'll have cleaner results.
Now that there's clean topology, I can use Blender's Multires modifier to sculpt in more details and make the Ghost Rider look a little more menacing. I didn't use any alphas on the mesh at this point. At some point down the road I'm going to add further high frequency detail to the textures using Substance Painter.
I love Blender's Cycles render engine. I have for a long time. So much so that I bought Cycles 4D to be able to use it inside Cinema 4D. It's a very powerful render, and while it doesn't have the speed of Octane, it's fast enough and reliable. The nodes are well thought out and it's a joy to work with.
In this look development phase, I created some very hot lights at cold and warm colour temps. Then I lowered the exposure of the render to retain detail in the highlights. This creates a menacing, low key, high contrast look. I rendered in 32 bit float EXR files so that I'd retain all the detail and be able to composite in a linear workflow for more realistic light values.
Blender does actually have a built in compositor that could have done the job here. But I'm a huge fan of Blackmagic Design's Fusion. This was composited in the free version of this software, which keeps my initial goal creating some dope creative with entirely free software. Some of the flames and smoke are stock footage (Action Essentials 2). Some of it is just fast noise nodes distorting more fast noise nodes. The flames are integrated using a z-depth pass as a matte. The sparks are added with Fusion's particle system, which is one of the best particle systems out there. Fake a couple light sources to match the 3D render, add a little film grain, and you have a fairly believable result.
I output the composite result as an EXR file to keep all the information available for the finishing colour touches in Resolve.
And finally, the colour grade. I ended up going with a fairly typical orange and teal treatment which played really well considering the warm clod light set up I did in Blender. To add a little bit of character, I threw some olive drab green in the shadows to make it a bit more of a tri-tone image. I took extra care when adding contrast to retain detail even in the darkest shadow areas.
If you notice the tapering at the top and tail of the Lum Vs Sat graph, that's to ensure the black remains black and white remains white.
Reslove also has a surprisingly good glow effect. A subtle touch of glow on the brightest highlights goes a long way in bringing the whole render together.
If you found this helpful, cool, or even mildly intriguing give it a thumbs up. My fragile, artist ego with thank you for the appreciation.
Thanks so much for checking out my work, especially if you're still reading this lame write up. The only thing I love more than creating this work is helping others to create better work. If you have any questions, please ask away and I'll do my best to answer / help. Lastly, I'm always trying to step my game up so critiques are also welcome.