3D Character animation

3D character animation is our focus

In this area we offer virtual avatars, rigging, facial animation, lip sync, hair dynamics, fur and cloth simulation in photo realistic appearance for you.

With the “Bruce Lee – Portrait by Alexander Beim” Contribution we are happy to show you our workflow for creating 3D Characters.

An article in the magazine Digital Production


An article in the Digital Art Master Volume 8


An article in the magazine 3D World


With the development of 3D technology, it isn’t hard to imagine that one day live actors could be replaced by realistic 3D character animation. I have always been a huge fan of Bruce Lee and I was, of course, very sorry that he passed away prematurely. If this is possible, it is also possible that actors who have died could star in the films of the future. This concept inspired me to try and create my first portrait of Bruce Lee, hoping that in the future I will be able to create an animation with him.


I started by collecting photographs of Lee. When making a recognizable character, accuracy is very important; even a millimeter out on the eyes or the nose can make a big difference. Unfortunately the quality of photography in the 1970s made it difficult to find a large and sharp enough picture, so I had to rethink my approach, combining images to create a mental image of his characteristics instead.


Making a Rough Model with DynaMesh

I like to work intuitively and, thanks to DynaMesh, I don’t need to know in advance what I want. I can change shapes as I see fit throughout the process. To make the model, I started experimenting with DynaMesh until I had a shape I was happy with. That is not to say I ignored creating a model with regular topology and indeed, I decided to create good topology suitable for facial animation


Making the Low Poly Model with Good Topology and UVs with purpose to use this model for character animation.



I made the mesh and generated the UVs in Maya, creating a topology suitable for future animation. It has taken a lot of trial and error over the years to learn this skill, but it was worth the effort in the end. With the model finished, I exported the mesh and texture coordinates into ZBrush.

Transferring the Model Layout to the Low Poly Base

I used the Projection tools in ZBrush to add detail and then increased the level of detail to 7, but unfortunately my computer could not cope with this as ZBrush still doesn’t support 64-bit. I have also experimented with HD Geometry, but I don’t like the fact that you can’t work with layers. In the end I worked with the model that I created in Maya.

Creating Reference Views

I used both profile and portrait photographs of Bruce Lee to develop an accurate anatomy of his face in Photoshop, outlining basic features like the line of the eye, mouth and nose. I then imported these into ZBrush as reference planes.




Finalizing the Base Model

I refined his features using the photos and different angles until I was satisfied with the result. When I came back to it the next day however, I felt that it was missing something. I continued working on elements that also have a significant impact, such as lighting, texture and material. When the basic symmetrical model was ready I started to add details like pores and wrinkles


Adding the High Res Details and Deciding on the Pose

For the 3d character I made several layers for pores and wrinkles, and then created the alpha in ZBrush Alpha Grab. Once this was ready, I created a layer to add wrinkles, imperfections, moles and stubble, etc.,



Final corrections and pose shape

I created a few more layers, including one for the final pose. I decided on a pose with Bruce turning his head slightly with an askance look to the right, imitating his classic look as he prepared for battle

Making the Textures for 3D Character

I made the textures in ZBrush with PolyPaint, using Displacement, Normal, Color, Cavity and Ambient Occlusion.

Export of model and textures

I exported the two models: one with three levels of detail and one low poly version along with the textures. I needed the low poly model for the final rendering, and used the detailed mesh to make the eyebrows and eyelashes. This meant I was aware of the model boundaries for the final rendering.



Finalization of the textures


To finalize the textures, I adjusted the colors and contrast in Photoshop. I also created texture maps for the following: Reflection, Specular, Diffuse, Epidermal and Subdermal layers


Importing to Maya

I was now ready for further work in Maya, so from 3d character I imported the first high poly model and started with the lighting. I used three area lights: one at the front, one in the top left and one to the rear.

I repeated this for the FG and used a HDRI map for the reflections. Once content, I started making the skin using the low poly model in conjunction with a Displacement and a Blinn Bump material. After setting up the basic parameters of the material, I played with the texture until I was happy with the skin


Creation of hair

As Bruce’s hair is a deep black color, I decided not to use the plugins and try Maya Standard Hair first. I started with his eyelashes. I created Nurbs curves on the eyelids, which is found under Maya Hair. I changed the color to black and created the final configuration. The eyebrows were made using the same principle. Once the hairs had been established, I was still able to adjust their shape by changing the vertices on the primary Nurbs curves.

I probably spent as much time creating the hair as I did on the entire 3d character head. I tried many methods, but always returned to creating the basic shape of the hair with Nurbs. I selected adjacent isoparms and transferred them to the Nurbs curves. In addition to these, I created Nurbs planes so the hair had some thickness and uniformity.

After hours of configuration and test renders, I finally felt the hair was finished

Making-of the eyes for 3D Character

I moved on to the eyes. By the 3d character I made the outer and inner parts separately, using the same basic material in Maya Skin


Making of Final Rendering

It was now finally ready for rendering! As the resolution of the hair was two thousand pixels, the i7 processor and 3930K picture took nine hours to render. When this was done, I began the final amendments in Photoshop.

Final Fine-Tuning of the Image

Using ZDepth Depth blur, I created a background before adjusting the contrast, color, and so on. Finally I signed my name – one of the most enjoyable parts of the working process! I was pleased with the result and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised! I hope you like it too

The 3D model is ready and can be used for 3D Character animation now.

The process from start to finish in the overall picture.


Look at a video with the making-of Bruce Lee 3d character process.

3d character Bruce Lee

We would like to use whole our knowledge, enthusiasm and all experience for production of your “3D Character Animation”.