Project Alchemist Video: Behind the Scenes with Josip Vrandecic
I’ve graduated from the University of Applied Arts (Photography) in Belgrade, Serbia. Not long after that, I got my first job and started my career working for several local game studios. It has been a great 6 years now, and I am looking forward to the next great experience.
I had the honor of working and contributing on some amazing game titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Battlefield 1, Batman: Arkham VR, Unreal Engine: A Boy and his Kite, Scorn, and many others yet to be released. Also, I had great pleasure working for some awesome commercials and VR projects for clients such as Adidas, Marina Abramovic, and many others.
The Adidas Commercials
Working on the Adidas commercials was at the same time a lot of fun, but also very challenging, being that a lot of shots that you see in the commercials go into some crazy macro details, so therefore assets needed to be perfect from every possible angle.
I collaborated with some very talented artists from DAT. I was responsible for modeling, sculpting, and texturing of many sneaker and boot assets. After the asset was polished, we would wrap them and deliver to the Client - Woodblock Berlin, who finished the clip by making Animations, FX, Post Production and all that Magic!
On the projects, there was a lot of scanning, knitting custom fabric patterns, hand sculpting the soft materials, and overall a very detailed work in terms of material and surface definition.
Substance came to the rescue in a lot of situations. I mainly used Substance Painter for the creation of materials in terms of baking high poly geometry details, and extracting all data maps such as (Mask, Ambient Occlusion, Curvature, ID, Height etc.)
When I have the seamless textures, I would then import the shoe model to set the tiling according to the reference images. When that part is done, I would then make a few screenshots to send to the Look development to serve them as a reference.
How I discovered Substance
When I rewind the time 6 years back in 2012, I was not aware of Substance and most of my texture work was done manually (yes! just imagine removing paint from edges of the whole asset by hand...not fun!). While doing so, I always thought to myself “I hope somebody in the future makes a software that will do a lot of this tedious work automagically :)”, so I can spend more time on the creative side of asset creation. And not so long after that, it happened! I remember that day when Substance first came out, I was so happy, and I was immediately exploring about the ways I could integrate it into my workflow. Since then, I never looked back.
The Project Alchemist Video
Project Alchemist was a great experience for me, and also a very challenging one. The challenge was to describe the great software capabilities in an abstract/mysterious fashion, but also not reveal too much, because the software is still in the development stage.
Luckily, I had help from the Allegorithmic product branding and technical team, which helped me a lot to understand the direction in which to go. So when we had the storyboard ready, I was now thinking about the ways to visually describe terms like birth, proceduralism, morphing, AI, scan processing, and overall integration with the already existing line of products.
In the past, I rarely had the opportunity to be involved in the directing and pre-production, so it was a really awesome experience.
As a freelancer, I have to choose carefully the tools I use, so I always do a lot of research before committing to a software. In the Project Alchemist video, I use the Substance tools of course, for all the textures and surface definition, and I used Houdini for all Animation/FX work. In my opinion, the combination of these 2 software tools really offers a lot.
Since there is quite a lot of information, I am going to focus on one single shot
I am going to show you the graph for the second shot (from seconds 4 to 6), that was meant to describe proceduralism and morphing of the materials.
So the setup is not that hard. I have created a simple Voronoi pattern on the grid which I separated into 2 chains, 1 for the shapes, and 1 for the lines. For the Sweep extrusion animation I simply grouped the geometry pieces by color attribute and using VEX (Houdini expression language), I told the setup to collect all the geometry pieces that are inside the bounding box, and once it does it performs the extrusion that is driven by the procedural CHOP Network noise animation.
As for the front sphere element, I animated the blend between Ferrofluid Labyrinth and Ferrofluid spikes Substance materials, which helped connect the story to the next shot that has the ferrofluid effect. My opinion was that the ferrofluid effect could visually connect the user to the AI element that’s described in Project Alchemist.
For everyone that is interested in a lot more details about these setups, I am planning to release a series of small tutorials that will focus on the subject.
Thank you for inviting me and I am looking forward to seeing the evolutions of Project Alchemist!