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    How to Create a Hail Phoenix with Cinema 4D and ZBrush

    FGT3D Santa’s New Ride Challenge organized by the TPN-Accredited cloud rendering services provider, Fox Renderfarm, was started in November, 2020 and sponsored by our amazing sponsors, including XP-Pen, Corona Renderer, Redshift, TopoGun, Friendly Shade, Graswald, Raysync,, Texturebox and iCube R&D Group. In early January, 2021, twelve finalists were received votes by our jury and three winners and three honorable mentions were picked! Congratulations to all the winners! And thanks to everyone for participating!

    FGT3D santa's new ride

    One of the Honorable Mentions goes to Santa's New Ride: A Phoenix Hope, created by our dear friend Kay John Yim. The artwork is made with Cinema 4D, ZBrush, Redshift and Character Creator.

    “I was immediately drawn to this image. This work took the idea of a "new ride" to a very different level. If Santa Claus, who brings wonderful joy to all children, wishes for a new ride, it might be a supernatural one like this. It looks as if it can go anywhere beyond the speed of light. The sense of the three-dimensional space, scale, lighting, and details of the image are excellent, and they all contribute to the happy feeling of the scene.” One of our judges, Miho Aoki said, who is the Associate Professor of Computer Art University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    Here’s the interview between John and Fox Renderfarm, in which we can find out how he created this wonderful 3D render.

    Kay John Yim

    • Kay John Yim
    • Chartered Architect based in London
    • CGI Artist
    • From: Hong Kong


    Clay-Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope © Kay John Yim

    Santa's New Ride: A Phoenix Hope © Kay John Yim

    Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about winning honorable mention in FGT3D Santa's New Ride Challenge?

    John: I feel really honored winning the honorable mention, and thank you so much for having me for the interview!

    Fox Renderfarm: What inspired you to create the work Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope?

    John: In light of a turbulent and disruptive year, I believed Santa’s New Ride for Christmas had to be symbolic for 2020’s Christmas, a motif bringing hope across the world. Phoenix, a legendary creature well-known worldwide was well-suited for that particular role. This led me to re-imagine the traditional Phoenix in a more festive and seasonal form - the Hail Phoenix - made up of both ice and fire, it was an embodiment of warmth and cold, a personification of sublimation and reincarnation.

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

    John: It took me about 3 weeks to finish - a week on the backdrop buildings, a week on sculpting the Phoenix, and another week on set-dressing and designing the final composition and lighting.

    Fox Renderfarm: Could you tell us how you make the modeling so appealing?

    John: I set out to do quite a large scale scene at the beginning, so I knew I would have to focus on assets/part of the assets visible to the final view/camera or else I would easily run out of time.

    Part of the background building components were procedurally modelled in Houdini, part of them were from an asset library that I built up in the past, assembled with Houdini’s Building Generator.

    The Phoenix model took a lot of trial and error - although it was sculpted in ZBrush in reference to body proportions of an eagle and a peacock, the wings and the tails were exaggerated in scale to make it look more heroic and surreal.

    Santa's New Ride WIP

    Santa's New Ride WIP-2

    Santa's New Ride WIP-1

    Fox Renderfarm: We’re all impressed by the lighting and composition of the work, could you introduce how you make them? Any references?

    John: Glad you like it! The scene was created in reference to Paris high streets and Christmas Markets - I personally loved the abundant festive lightings found in a lot of European Christmas markets, which I replicated and had them scattered around the scene.

    Composition wise it was actually a reference to my own personal artwork, “Thousand Cherry Trees (千本桜)” - a centered main subject surrounded with a symmetrical backdrop and foreground character(s). Coming from an architectural background, I personally love using central perspectives - although not often as realistic - I think they leave the deepest impression and are the easiest to design and iterate on.

    Thousand Cherry Trees © Kay John Yim

    Thousand Cherry Trees © Kay John Yim

    Fox Renderfarm: The shading and texturing are brilliant. How did you make it?

    John: The shading and texturing were done in Cinema 4D (Redshift) and they were relatively simple.

    I used mostly Megascans materials for the buildings and the street props with a bit of color correction and material blending.

    The festive and window lights were subtly randomized emissive materials - I originally lit a lot of them as diffuse lights but had to swap them out for emissive materials instead due to excessive render times.

    As for the Phoenix, it took a lot of trial and error to arrive at the final look without exact real-world references. I originally planned to groom it as if it were an oversized eagle, but I figured that the grooming would take up too much time on top of the sculpt, and it would have covered up a lot of the background lights and buildings. This was the primary reason why I ultimately made it a translucent “living ice sculpture”, shaded with an ice material mixed in with a lot of roughness noise for reflection and refraction.

    Reference-Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope © Kay John Yim

    Reference-2-Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope © Kay John Yim.jpg

    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope

    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope

    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope


    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope

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

    John: The most difficult part was managing rendering time. Refractive materials like glass and ice were computationally expensive to render - caustics in particular could easily double or triple rendering times. With such a large refractive object in the scene (the Phoenix), my original estimated rendering time would be well over 2 weeks (for a 4K image) with caustics on! I had to turn off caustics and place in some fake spotlights with caustic textures as a “cheat” to speed up my rendering time at the end.

    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope

    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope

    Santa's New Ride A Phoenix Hope

    Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm cloud rendering services?

    John: I have tried a lot of rendering services and I think Fox Renderfarm is one of the most helpful renderfarms; the file uploading speed is particularly impressive.

    Fox Renderfarm: What do you think of the FGT3D Challenge, any suggestions for us?

    John: I think the FGT3D Challenge is great, as the topics are really flexible and thus allow for artists’ own interpenetration.

    Fox Renderfarm: Do you have any advice for future participants in the competition?

    John: To render a good image, I think it is most important to train one’s artistic sense, attention to detail and proportions, which could be as simple as watching good movies.

    Technical-wise, there is really no defined path for learning since CG softwares is advancing so quickly these days. In general I believe it is essential to practice effectively and regularly. I try to spare as much time as I could everyday on personal CG projects, and when I am learning a new software myself, I would pick a photo or an object that I really like and try to fully replicate it as a 3D rendering.

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