Meet the Team: Bela Szabo (Character modeler)

The task of converting the set of modelsheets drawn by Daniel Fu to 3D
character models is a pretty tricky one. It requires a definite artistic
sense of form in 3D, the ability to follow an inexact pattern, and of
course, a great deal of skill with Blender.

In addition to modeling the basic form represented by the modelsheets, the modeler also
has to create a range of “shape keys” to represent different facial
expressions. This is how we generally animate facial expressions.
Blender does a kind of “morph” from the neutral position to one or more
extreme points of facial expression (this is different from how we
animate arm and leg motions, which are based on skeletal deformations of
the character mesh).

The thing is, this is touchy, personalized work.

Last year (when we were hoping to be on a faster schedule), this role had
been started by Andrew Pray, with models of Georgiana and the beginnings
of Hiromi and Allen. However, time passed, and Andrew had to go onto
other projects. So, we were in a bit of a fix.

Fortunately, however, we found Bela Szabo through a recommendation, and he’s been doing an absolutely fantastic job!

Bela Szabo is a self-taught 3D artist. He started modeling
with Blender in 2011. Since then he has learned texturing and rigging as
well. His main interest is character modeling, texturing and rigging in
multiple 3D packages, but I am familiar with hardsurface modeling
techniques too.

Before pursuing his freelance carreer in the CG
industry, he studied finance, accounting, and software engineering. He
currently resides in Hungary. Other interests include music — he’s been
playing trumpet for 14 years in his hometown’s brass band.

Some of his models can be found on BlendSwap and a few others for sale on Turbosquid.

The Special Challenges of Character Modeling for Lunatics!

One thing that really affects us, of course, is that since character
modeling has such a personal touch, it’s a challenge for a new artist to
step into the middle of a project. Since Andrew had not completed that
many of the character models, we had Bela start over from the beginning,
working directly from Daniel’s drawings. This also gave us the chance
to address some concern about whether the style was getting too far away
from the plan drawings.

“Lunatics!” is an ensemble story, with EIGHT principle characters,
plus a number of second-tier characters, and finally, a lot of walk-on
and extras parts (especially in the pilot, when we’re on Earth).  We can
certainly make a break between artists between the major characters
and the extras. Perhaps we could even handle it if the principal artist
worked only on the eight colonists, and someone else finished the others,
following his lead.

That’s one thing that makes the character modeling such a key element for us
— it’s a big job, and for aesthetic consistency, it really should be
done by just one person!

That’s one reason why our plan has been to pay Bela Szabo up front for
his time on this project — it’s time-consuming and a pretty big risk for him
to take on personally. We’ve estimated this is about three months work overall.
He’s already started on this with models for Georgiana, Hiromi, Tim, and Josh:

Bela also modeled the main guest character from the pilot —
Anya’s brother Sergei who is the cosmonaut who pilots the Soyuz and
later the LTS Moon Shuttle:

Of course, these characters are displayed here as previsualizations
the materials are simple ones we use for previewing the characters.
In order to spread the load best, I will be working on skin and clothing
materials for the characters (I’ve already started on Georgiana and
Hiromi as you can see in our cover video and previous updates).

Anya and Rob are up next – and I really want to see them! After that,
we’ll do Allen and Sarah (although they aren’t in the pilot episode).
What happens after that is going to depend a lot on available funds and
time available: We might ask Bela to make more characters, or we might
ask for generic meshes that someone else (possibly me) can modify, or we
might have to just ask another artist to follow his lead with
additional characters.

Help me pay this guy – he’s awesome and he’s worth it!

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Terry Hancock is the director and producer of "Lunatics!" and the founder for "Lunatics Project" and the associated "Film Freedom" Project. Misskey (Professional/Director Account) Mastodon (Personal Account)