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How to Create a CG Scene in Norman Rockwell Style in Blender

2022-07-04
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FGT3D “Hero” challenge

Heroes are everywhere - Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

FGT3D “Hero” challenge organized by the TPN-Accredited cloud rendering services provider, Fox Renderfarm, was started in June and sponsored by our awesome sponsors, including TopoGun, Friendly Shade, Graswald, Raysync, ProductionCrate, Textures.com, Texturebox and Marmoset. In September, twelve finalists were received votes by our jury and three winners were picked! Thank everyone for participating!

And the first place winner is Akhil Alukkaran. Congratulations! His artwork, Heroes are Everywhere stands out for its strong composition and amazing storytelling, conveying the concept of what makes a hero in one of the purest forms.

Fox Renderfarm is so glad to have an interview with Akhil. What’s the story behind while creating this artwork? Let’s figure it out together!

Akhil Alukkaran

  • Akhil Alukkaran
  • 3D Artist
  • From: Kerala, India
  • Artwork Caption: “What makes a hero? It doesn't always have to be something great, even a small act of kindness can also be considered heroic, even if it is just a good thought it shows that there is a hero in you. Heroes are everywhere, you just have to look closer.”

Fox Renderfarm: Hi, Akhil! Thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?

Akhil: I am really glad to have the opportunity given by Fox Renderfarm to share my experience, approach and vision with the making of ‘Heroes are everywhere’.

Well... to start with, my name is Akhil. I am 25 years old and I am from Kerala, India. I am a freelance 3d artist and soon to be an Architecture graduate. It's been two years since I started working with 3d and I'm still trying to improve and learn. I used to work with sketchup and V ray, mostly Archviz. Recently I also included Blender in my workflow.

Fox Renderfarm: Congratulations on winning 1st place in the FGT3D Hero Challenge, how do you feel about that?

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Akhil: Thank you. Actually it felt good. I was looking for opportunities to do something nice, that's when I got to know about this particular challenge, so I thought of participating. However I wasn't sure about winning this one. My knowledge was limited, so if i needed to do something great I had to learn so many things. This taught me so many things and inspired me as well.

Fox Renderfarm: How long did you take to finish the work?

Akhil: I took about a month and half to finish this work. I had other things to do as well so I worked whenever I got time. This work needed a lot of patience, since I was doing most of the process for the first time. But I managed to get inspiration from my friends.

Fox Renderfarm: What software and plugins did you use to finish the artwork, Heroes are everywhere?

Akhil: Most of the work was done in Blender, and also used photoshop for post processing. Also used ‘F spy’ addon for camera matching in the beginning stage. For the character creation I used reality capture and meshroom.

Fox Renderfarm: This artwork conveys the concept of what makes a hero in one of the purest forms. What’s the inspiration behind?

Akhil: When I got to know the Theme was ‘Hero’ I thought of so many things to work with. Every concept that i came up with was about doing something great and epic. Somehow I ‘wondered what makes a hero?’ Is it just about doing something great or doing something humanly impossible? We also do have a lot of real life heroes, however in the end I decided to look at it in a different perspective. That's when I decided to do something subtle but have a good story inside it and I wrote like this.

“What makes a hero? It doesn't always have to be something great, even a small act of kindness can also be considered heroic, even if it is just a good thought it shows that there is a hero in you. Heroes are everywhere, you just have to look closer.”

I was not confident about the concept in the beginning, but now it seems right for me.

Fox Renderfarm: The amazing work has strong composition, and lovely lightning. How did you make them? Any references?

Akhil: In the beginning itself i had a clear idea how the environment should be and about the main characters of the scene except the background characters which i decided to add in the final stage. So I gathered some reference images for the environment from pinterest and google and compiled it as a Concept board.

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Later I chose one particular photograph to be the base for my environment. Using F spy addon I matched the camera and exported it to blender so that i could build upon it. The buildings were just the image projected onto simple base planes which then modeled simply to have a bit of 3 dimensionality. I struggled a little with UV mapping. Since I had a clear picture about the composition in the beginning itself, I only tried to work on the area which would be seen in the final image.

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

In the figure the road texture and puddles were added later in the finishing stage.

I tried a different lighting setup in the beginning itself. Earlier it was just meant to be a night scene but later felt like doing a daytime scene and came up with a lighting which I felt was good. The lighting setup was simple. I used an hdri image as the base for the ambient light and used a simple sun lamp.

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes-are-Everywhere-©-Akhil-Alukkaran

Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties when creating this work? And how did you solve it?

Akhil: I wanted this work to be as realistic as possible, but I didn't know how to do that. Especially the main characters, the boy and the dog pups. Even before working on the environment, I started to work on the dog’s 3d model. I used a low poly base mesh and tried to sculpt details and pose it in Blender. It didn’t work out, well it was fine but wasn’t that realistic. Also I wasn’t comfortable with posing it, so I left it midway and thought of doing something later. After working on the environment again I started to work on the dogs again. This time I tried something different. I chose a reference image for the dog puppies and using ‘pifuhd’ i created a base mesh and later projected the same image on the mesh and sculpted the details. It was looking decent, so I decided to use them in the final scene.

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

But the main problem was to create the human characters. I thought of doing something with character creator software but it would take so much time for me to achieve a good result. So I decided to 3d scan the characters. So I took photos of my nephew and created a 3d scan with reality capture. I also used Meshroom but since my photo quality was not good, it didn’t give me a good result. However the process was a bit longer than I expected because of some error. So i had to do some experiments. After that I scanned my dad as well for the character in the background. The whole process took around one week and I was just learning. The resulted model wasn’t that great, so I sculpted the rest of the model and details later in Blender.

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

The final image needed a lot of work, so the rest of the time I focused on individual props which I needed for filling up the scene.Most of them were modeled but a few of them were third-party assets.

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Heroes are Everywhere © Akhil Alukkaran

Finally the scene was almost done. Later it needed a little bit more tweaking. The smoke and rain added later in photoshop, since the attempt to simulate them inside Blender, took so much time.

Fox Renderfarm: Any artists or artworks inspired you most?

Akhil: It is hard to pick one. There are so many artists out there who are doing amazing works. I really do follow a lot of them and also learn from them. But for this particular work, I don’t know. I might have been inspired by some of them. In one of the jury comments they mentioned about ‘Norman Rockwell’. I have seen his amazing works before but that was a long time back. So really that was a good reference for me to learn from.

Fox Renderfarm: Could you briefly tell us your educational and work experience along your CG journey?

Akhil: I am a self taught cg artist (actually in the process of being one). I am almost done with my Architecture degree. It's been two years since I started doing things in 3D, before that I didn’t even know how to model in SketchUp. Earlier works were done in SketchUp and V-Ray, those were mostly Archviz works. Last year I started to work more with Blender, and I always wanted to create larger worlds and tell stories through them and I am still learning.

Fox Renderfarm: Do you have any recommendable learning methods to improve professional skills?

Akhil: I really don’t know how to answer that. I am still struggling to find the right method to learn. Only thing which I do is that I work hard a lot and I try to learn from my mistakes and others’ as well.

Fox Renderfarm: Have you ever tried Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services? If yes, how do you like it?

Akhil: Yes, I have used Fox Renderfarm for some of my works. It seems quite fast and reliable. I am planning to use the service more in my workflow.

Fox Renderfarm: Anything else you would like to share with CG enthusiasts?

Akhil: I used to depend more on the tools which I am using. Also I limited myself with what I knew, but I realized there are plenty of ways you could achieve something. Most important thing is the idea in your mind and the passion which leads you to give that idea ‘life’. Keep learning......

NOTE: Fox’s Got Talent campaign keeps going. Welcome to share your artwork rendered with Fox Renderfarm and be our next winner and win prizes! For more info https://www.foxrenderfarm.com/fgt-community.html

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