Drafting the “Insect Mecha Battle” Logo

One of the side projects we’ve got going on at Ottoman HQ is the design of the “Insect Mecha Battle” Tournament logo, which adorns the flags and banners of the “Ottoman” world. The ideal logo design would serve as a visual signature for the project as a whole, while still fitting the art style of the film. We aimed for a vintage 1960s silhouette design, taking special inspiration from the work of Saul Bass.

We began with some core motifs: beetles, crossed sabers, gears and skulls, and tried to see what we could distill into a striking and iconic emblem. The six designs below are some of the rough concepts that we’ve developed along the way. 

Six logos

With luck, we’ll have a finished design to unveil within the next few weeks! Stay tuned…

Scorpion Rider: Evolution

2007

Concept art

Jim Talbot, character illustrator and modeler extraordinaire, develops his initial sketches for the fearsome Scorpion Rider.

Scorpion rider preliminary sketches
Character designs by Jim Talbot
2008

Modeling

Jim recreates his own drawings in 3D, bringing the menacing villain to life.

The Rider 3D
Model by Jim Talbot
2009

Tattoo design and color treatments

David Ward, following his collaboration with Dhar Jabouri on the Scorpion Rider’s elaborate tattoo, turns his attention to the clothing.

Scorpion Rider color treatments
Color designs by David Ward
2010

Maquette and revisions

Art director Matt Evans crafts a clay model as a guide for streamlining the character’s silhouette.

Scorpion Rider maquette
Sculpture by Matt Evans
2011

Hair and clothing

Gary Abrehart painstakingly sculpts new hair meshes for the Rider and the other characters.

The Rider's hair
Hair, brows and beard modeling by Gary Abrehart

Texturing

David Ward, who had never painted in 3D prior to this project, transforms his earlier color designs into vividly detailed texture maps.

The Rider's textures
Texture painting by David Ward
2012

Rigging

Technical Director Bret Bays develops the complex body and face controls that allow the Rider to be posed and animated.

The Scorpion Rider's rig
Rig by Bret Bays
2013

Ready for action!

Scorpion Rider posed
Pose and lighting by Mike Stamm

A diversity of dieselpunk devices

While working on the high-poly medina environment upgrade, modeler David Alvarez has pulled out all the stops with this collection of whimsical machines, doorways, fuel tanks and satellite dishes. Although a number of the models are refinements of existing low-res props and machinery, some of the best are his own creations.

So delightful, we just had to share!

David Alvarez' props for the medina
Modeling by David Alvarez
David Alvarez' props for the medina, part 2
Modeling by David Alvarez

Scorpion Rider poster concept

Not a scene from the movie; just a rough idea for a poster we might make someday. This one features the fearsome Scorpion Rider.

Scorpion Rider poster concept
The Scorpion Rider and his mount.

The Road to the Medina, part 3

Medina shop render
Model by David Alvarez, textures by David Ward

The medina shops, garages and factories we modeled back in part 2 were finally complete, but we still had a long road ahead of us. Constructing the individual buildings was only the first step. To achieve the full visual aesthetic of the project—inspired by the work of Jean “Moebius” Girard and his contemporaries—we’d need intricate inked detailing and lush, saturated colors.

We had no idea how we were going to achieve this style in 3D. The ligne claire style is defined by hand-drawn lines on paper. It doesn’t lend itself to computer-generated celshading at all. But the team was convinced it could be done.

It wouldn’t be easy. Even just preparing the buildings for texturing would be an ordeal: if we were going to mimic an inked, colored comic-book page, then every last wall, pipe, windowsill and lamp would need to be UV-mapped, tested for distortions and other problems, and repaired. Once texturing was underway, the materials would need multiple layers of hand-painted textures (no procedurals or photos here!). The inks layers would need to be closely vetted against our archive of reference artwork. The color layers would need to cycle through various celshading and lighting tests. Finally yet another layer of hand-painted highlights and shadows would need to be added, to ensure that the textures would integrate seamlessly with the CG lighting. The end result would need to evoke a beautiful hand-drawn graphic novel while simultaneously integrating perfectly into a 3D environment.

No sweat, right?

Steps used to create the look of the medina buildings
Click to view the steps of our texturing and lighting process.

After a lot of trial and error, we’ve managed to put together a solid workflow. Our lead texture artist David Ward really stepped up his game, jumping back and forth between 2D and 3D as he built up stacks of inks, colors and shades into a coherent whole. We’ve catalogued our pipeline in the illustration above. So far the results have been very satisfying.

The road to the medina, part 2

Back in part 1, we covered the concept art for the project’s North African dieselpunk building style as well as the street layout for the medina itself. Since then, we’ve begun building the components in 3D, starting with David Alvarez’ outstanding job on the buildings themselves:

The garage 3D modelThe factory 3D modelThe schoolThe radio station
Models by David Alvarez

These buildings and many more have been sprawled across the map to form the winding streets and narrow alleys of the medina. As you can see in the render below, we’re gradually replacing low-poly structures with high-poly ones as we build up the city.

An untextured render of the medina in progress
Model by David Alvarez, Matt Evans and Gavin Reed

The creation of the Scarab, part 2

Version 1.0

The Scarab is only a vehicle, not a character, but in many ways it’s the star of the show. Certainly we’d want it featured prominently on the poster. So getting its “look” just right would be crucial. We knew we’d be spending a lot of time and effort on the modeling phase.

Things kicked off with a bang when I got an e-mail from Michael Marcondes, a prominent C4D artist who had been following the project. He offered to do the Scarab modeling himself, as the basis of a surface modeling tutorial he was developing. We jumped at the chance, and the resulting model was a marvel:

Michael Marcondes' Scarab model
Model by Michael Marcondes

Seriously, how wicked are those leg mechanisms?

Back to Basics

Once we examined the model from all angles, however, we realized we still had a ways to go. We’d lost a lot of the roundness, the compactness, of the original concept. The Scarab is supposed to have a hunched-over, defensive posture, and we needed the model to reflect that. Here was where our art director stepped in with one of his trademark diagrams. In the image below, he identifies the key lines that define the Scarab’s silhouette. If we could preserve those curves during the remodel, we’d be most of the way there.

Scarab proportions diagram
Artwork by Matt Evans

To put it mildly, it took quite a few step-by-step revisions to get to the final model. I’ll spare you the hundreds of incremental screenshots, but here’s a brief rundown:

  • Rebuilt the rear shell into a single smooth unit
  • Reshaped the windshield for better visibility
  • Enlarged the grille and headlights to create a friendlier “face”
  • Resized and repositioned the legs to match the concept art
  • Recreated the inner leg rotators to improve range of motion
  • Built a large engine housing under the shell
  • Added new geometry to fill in the underside of the chassis
  • Reworked the exhaust vent at the back
  • Expanded and rounded the leg guards
  • Added an extra toe to the front feet
  • Created the full cockpit interior and seat
  • Modeled detailed controls for the cockpit dashboard
  • Added mounting points along the side and back for armor plating
  • Added shin plates and reinforced toe guards

(And that’s not even counting the battle armor!)

The Last Scarab

Was it worth it? Absolutely. The completed model beautifully captured the spirit of the original plastic Scarab while adding plentiful dieselpunk stylings and a crisp, comic-book flair.

Our star vehicle had arrived.

The final rendered Scarab
Model by Michael Marcondes, Sandi Dolšak, Magne Lauritzen, Steve Pointon

The creation of the Scarab, part 1

The Plastic Scarab

Like the Scorpion, the Scarab started out as a physical model, even before any concept artwork was drawn up. This prototype that art director Matt Evans sculpted out of a mini trash-bin lid, salad tongs and foam rubber became the foundation for all the designs that followed:

The plastic Scarab prototype
Sculpture by Matt Evans

Even late in the modeling stages, the ability to refer back to the base design was instrumental in keeping the Scarab from drifting too far from our original vision.

The pencil stage

Dermot Walshe was the first to take a crack at adapting the prototype Scarab into dieselpunk form, with this Jeep-like concept:

Scarab with grayscale wash
Artwork by Dermot Walshe

Unlike his Scorpion designs, however, we felt that Dermot’s take on the Scarab was perhaps a little too aggressive. Moreover, although the Scarab is supposed to look like it’s built out of scavenged and retrofitted machinery, the shape still needs to be instantly readable, even in motion. The Scarab’s silhouette was in need of some major streamlining.

The Ink Stage

Concept artist Roger Oda, known for his precise, technical inking style (many people assumed his drawings were celshaded 3D renders) was brought in to do precisely that. His rounded, stripped-down Scarab preserved a number of elements from Dermot’s version, while also sporting some accessories of his own—the spring-heel shock absorbers, squared-off toes and secondary headlights were all incorporated into the final model.

Scarab design by Roger Oda
Artwork by Roger Oda

With the addition of David Ward’s armor designs, we were ready to make the move to 3D…

Our first walk cycle

Sure, it’s only a 1-second walk cycle of an untextured model with simplified clothing, but honestly, we couldn’t be more proud.

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  • Character modeling: Jim Talbot
  • Rigging: Bret Bays
  • Animation: Nikolas Karatasakis
  • Technical direction: Charles Wardlaw