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Nastiest Malware – 3D Character Design Journey

Close your eyes and imagine January 2015. It’s cold outside. The holidays have come and gone. Maybe memories of a recent New Years party are still tumbling inside your head. And in Mansfield Connecticut, I’m sitting in a classroom, surrounded by the hum of 20 Windows PCs. Around me a small group of college students- some bleary eyed, tired, not ready for a new semester- are pulling laptops out of their backpacks. Signing into PCs. Sipping their coffee.

I open my laptop and prepare myself for the start of 3D Animation 1. The screen lights up, and I click on a small round ball at the bottom of my desktop. For the first time in my life, Cinema 4D opens before my eyes.

I was captivated by 3D animation from the start. I’d spend far too long just moving around the viewfinder, exploring the little digital space sitting at the desk in front of me. I was fortunate enough to take several classes exploring the subject, and as I graduated and moved on to the wide world of motion design, I found myself trying to fit the third dimension into as many projects as I could.

Each one of these projects becomes a little adventure in itself. With each render I learn of new settings, new techniques, and better workflows. And the opportunity to create 3D characters for Webroot’s Nastiest Malware campaign was no exception.

Webroot approached us with illustrated silhouettes of six kinds of malware, personified as monstrous creatures, and asked if we could bring them to life. We worked with Andrés del Valle, a talented local illustrator, to create more complete designs of each character. From there, I created each character in 3D- modeling individual body parts, creating textures for their clothing, generating dramatic lighting, rigging them for animation and finally putting them into action.

Like a mad scientist dashing around their lab, I found myself combining many of the tools and techniques I’ve learned over the years. Modeling a torso with symmetry tools. Using vertex maps to drive weights in a cloth sim. Arranging a cluster of nodes to create more organic looking materials. Painting weights to drive skeletal animations.

Maybe the most important piece to this puzzle, however, was working with a supportive group of talented individuals. Andrés did a phenomenal job creating the initial sketches for these characters, generating a road map to follow. Jon Flacke reminded me that sometimes the best projects are a little scary. Andrew Spain picked up all of my calls, and subsequently answered my myriad of questions.

This project was exciting, truly one that I found myself getting lost in, and I’m ecstatic with the results. Take a look at the finished products, and hopefully you feel the same way. Now, I’m just excited for the next time I can select that little sphere from my taskbar.



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