Paula Sanders Report - Gnomon Workshop's Head Sculpting and Texturing

deemarie · August 22, 2005 9:06 am

This is the second DVD set that I have reviewed from Gnomon Workshop on ZBrush 2. [The first Zbrush 2 DVD was an Introduction to ZBrush 2 with Meats Meier]. This DVD set is Head Sculpting and Texturing - ZBrush Techniques with Alex Alvarez, who is the founder and director of Gnomon School of Visual Effects. Initially, I thought this DVD set was going to be excellent, and parts of it are the first few lectures, I felt, were superb. However, I don't think the lessons did exactly what the DVD implied they would do. I wanted to learn how to sculpt and texture a whole head in ZBrush, even though I knew it would be rendered outside of ZBrush. That is not what happened. This tutorial does not go into putting in teeth or eyes as the picture on the DVD cover illustrates. The author created this head to be rigged, or used, in another program where the teeth and eyes would be set up separately. If this was his goal, it should have been stated up front. Otherwise, I believe all should have been included. There was plenty of time, since it took him three lectures to texture the bust using basically the same ZBrush tools, and doing it in a similar fashion, just on different parts of the model. This could have been condensed. Other than being disappointed in finding out that creating teeth and eyes in ZBrush was not included in these DVDs, what Alvarez taught initially was excellent; he definitely did not leave out any steps. The illustrations below shows the head worked on by Alvarez from start to finish. The final rendering (the last picture) was done outside of ZBrush. The third picture shows the final ZBrush work.
Although a minimal knowledge of ZBrush is required, I believe both novices and skilled ZBrush users can benefit from these DVDs. The 2 DVDs take you through the steps necessary to sculpt and texture a head in ZBrush, and then render it in Maya. However, as I stated in the beginning, I believe they should not have left out the eyes. Some of the topics covered along the way are: Zspheres, the pinch brush, edgeloops, working with SDIV levels, symmetry techniques, stencils, projection master, UVS and texture creation, creating maps - bump, color, specular- using bumpviewer material, exporting GEO and displacement, and, then, rendering with Maya and Mental Ray. This first group of pictures [below] shows the subject matter of just lecture two, where Alvarez shows one how to rough in a head. The following are what mine looked like. The picture on the far left, are the Zspheres that formed the base for the Adaptive skin.
Alvarez not only instructs the user on how to develop the head with ZBrush, he also gives a basic course in the anatomy of the skull. Thus, even a beginner who does not have an idea of muscle or bone structure, has the potential of producing a head that is anatomically correct. While he does this, he also is instructing the user on different brushes and settings, etc. in ZBrush. He finished his tutorial by showing how to bring color maps, displacement maps, bump maps into Photoshop and combine them. For his finale, he brings his head into Maya and Mental Ray and shows how to go through the process of rendering it. Below are pictures of the head I created, partially finished. Without the tutorial, I would not have known how to do this.
If you work along with the tutorial, you will not only learn the different steps, but they should become imbedded in your bones. However, Alvarez states that he likes to "tweak a lot." That is very obvious. He likes to tweak too much. While some of his tweaking shows how one can change a structure, much of it gets too repetitive; and I found myself fast forwarding through a number of the lectures [not because I knew the material prior to the DVD]. I believe he should have condensed some of this, because after awhile the repetition loses its teaching value. My main criticism of the DVDs, aside from the fact that they left out creating eyes for those individuals who want to complete the work in ZBrush, is that Alvarez did not allocate his time wisely. As an example, instead of detailing the whole bust using basically the same technique, be it at normal sped or even at an accelerated speed, he could have just demonstrated how to do it, and then resumed the recording after he had finished using that same technique on the other parts of the bust. Unfortunately, towards the end of the second DVD, he started to rush through other parts of the tutorial such as how to create a specular map, or any kind of colored map, probably because he began to run out of time. The lecture notes in PDF format reinforce some of what has been taught on the DVDs such as Custom Alphas, the use of the Deco brush, symmetry techniques, etc. As I stated in the beginning, part of this tutorial was superb. I learned a lot from it, however, I believe it could have been better. I still would definitely recommend it, but the user needs to know what it does and does not teach.
  • Head Sculpting and Texturing - ZBrush Techniques with Alex Alvarez DVD: $69 [USD]
  • The minimum system requirements are: 1GHz or faster processor, 512MB Ram, 64 MB Video Ram, DVD-ROM drive,500 MB hard disk space, 1280 x 1024 display.
  • The minimum operating system requirements are: Microsoft Windows XP Pro, Windows 2000, or Apple Mac OS X 10.2.

I invite you to visit the following sites:
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  • The Paula Sander's Report is a regular Renderosity Front Page featured column, where Paula investigates and comments on graphic software, techniques, and other relevant material through her reviews, tutorials, and general articles.
August 22, 2005

Article Comments

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 23 August 2005

Thanks for the review. As they say: not all that glitters is gold. Thanks to this I am very keen on getting to know more about the gnomon series.

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 24 August 2005

Hey Paula, Thank you so much for an inside look into the DVD. Alex Alverez is an amazing ZBrush artist. I was very impressed with the model you created following his instructions :] I know that you have sculpted in clay ... how does the process of "virtual" sculpting compare to "physical" sculpting? Looking forward to the next DVD review in this series. Dee-Marie

Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 24 August 2005

I was surprised that after a while my hand began working with the mouse or my stylus following my mental conceptualization. This, of course, refers to the part of the work most similar to clay - the pushing, pulling, using zadd and zsub, and the brushes that build up, take away, smooth, etc.

EricofSD ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 25 August 2005

Well done article. I am always amazed at what people do with Z-Brush!

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 26 August 2005

Hey Paula, I am so impressed - you are working in ZBrush like a pro. I know you just started to explore the program a couple months ago ... Do you feel that the DVDs from The Gnomon Workshop have helped you begin to master ZBrush at an accelerated rate? Dee-Marie

Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 26 August 2005

I couldn not have done it without them. And I had previously tried. They simplified it so that now I feel I understand the program and can progress in it.

SndCastie ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 26 August 2005

Man this is interesting wish I had the money to buy Zbrush and both DVD's looks really interesting. Sandy

calum5 ( posted at 12:00AM Sun, 28 August 2005

I have just aquired ZB2 and gained a great deal of help thanks to your review!Thankyou for bringing a few elements I was troubled with to light, I think I will be a purchaser of the Dvd! Thanks Paula ,you do an excellent job! Bye calum

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