David Aucourt is a 3D character artist with 5 years of experience in the industry. He currently resides in Toulouse, France, working as lead character artist at TAT Studio developing the characters for their next feature films and just starting to work as a freelancer. We couldn't wait to chat with him about the process behind his esteemed Batbarian piece. Take a look at what David had to say:

What inspired the creation of your Batbarian piece? Did you concept it yourself before modeling?

For this piece I was inspired by a sketch from Karl Kopinski. The sketch was a bit loose so I had to gather some references and then start a rough blockout in ZBrush. I usually prefer to experiment this way, finding the right shapes in 3d.

Can you walk us through your process for how you achieved the finer details in your textures? We're specifically impressed by the dirt on his skin and the scrapes on his weapons.

My texturing process is a mix of scanned data, procedural texturing and sculpting.

I usually start by creating simple smart materials in Substance Painter and drop them onto the lowest subdiv from ZBrush early in the process. I often start with the smart materials given in the software and tweak them depending on my needs. For example, I wasn’t happy with the leather grain I had, so I downloaded a scanned leather normal map on SurfaceMimic and plug it into the normal map slot of the smart material. I tend to always look at scanned data before spending too much time on tweaking a material, the result is usually better if your goal is realism.

At this point I then decide if the sculpt will need more work or not, like adding big scratches or whatever in ZBrush, basically it’s the detail that will break the procedural look. There is a lot of back and forth to see how the added detail is reacting with the smart material. The point for me here is to minimize the hand painted stuff in Substance Painter, maximizing the procedural aspect of it. I like this workflow because I won’t sculpt details if the procedural stuff is efficient enough, I think it has been a time saving process for this piece.

The process was a little bit different for the head. I used a TexturingXYZ map for surface detail in ZBrush and cross polarized photo textures projected in Mudbox for the albedo map. A dirt material was then blended on top of the skin shader in VRay.

Your fur and cloth are also both awesome and have a great weathered look - they definitely give the feel of having been through some wear and tear. Can you tell our users how was they were generated and what software was used?

For the cloth, I used Marvelous Designer to have a good starting point. I then bring the mesh into ZBrush to rework the topology and main folds. This is an important step to avoid the “Marvelous” look of the cloth. I also added memory folds and tears with the standard brush. For the texturing part, I made a fabric material in Painter and mainly used smart masks to blend dirt materials on top of the other materials. This was really handy because I could drag and drop this dirt materials on every objects.

The fur was made with Ornatrix. It’s a really versatile hair system, you can even use it as a scatter tool. You basically have 3 layers to control the hair. First the mesh where the hair is growing, then you have the guides and finally the hair. You can add many modifiers to each layers in a non destructible way.

For the weathered look, I mostly used clustering and frizz modifiers and tried to brighten up the tip of the fur.

Did you have to retopologize for texturing on this piece? What were the challenges you experienced in doing so, and how often do you typically have to do so in your other work for clients?

It depends on the object. For example, I used an existing basemesh for the head, which was previously retopologized by hand in 3dsMax, but most of the accessories are just retopologized with zremesher or directly poly modeled. I don’t have special rules here, I just take the quicker way to do it and see if it’s working or not, avoiding the manual retopology if I can.
Regarding the polycount, I like having meshes that are relatively high, I found that the displacement maps are working better.

When it comes to professional work it really depends on the project. You often can reuse some objects or part of topology from other assets. The point for me is to save time if I can. Obviously you can’t avoid retopology for certain assets, but as soon as you have some assets done in a project you can start picking meshes here and there. This way you can sometimes reuse the maps and shader and gain extra time.

Is it necessary to write your own shaders to achieve your desired results? If so, how did you go about writing the texture shader for the leather pieces around his waist?

Not really, all the scene is rendered in VRay. I mostly use VRayMtl, VRayFastSSS2 and VRayBlend shaders. There was a little bit of color correction to do on the maps from substance as the shader reacts differently from VRay. For the hair, I used the VRayHairMtl in conjunction with the OxHair node which gives slight variations in the hair color.

How were your classes at CGMA beneficial to your growth as an artist?

I think it has influenced a lot my work. It gave me the opportunity to improve my foundations skill, having feedback from really talented artists. I also learned different workflows for game and cinematic characters, and met amazing people, students and instructors, who share the same passion. This, combined to the fact that I started to share my personal work, really developed my professional network.

Can you offer some words of advice for our aspiring character artists on how to get noticed in the industry?

I would say be patient and consistent with your personal work. Always keep practising and sharing, there is a lot of talented character artist out there and standing out from the crowd is not an easy task. But I believe that hard work will land you where you want.

We want to thank David for taking the time to speak with us! Check out his CGSociety portfolio to stay updated on his work.