Lighter Than Air

A 3D piece expressing my sense of freedom to pursue more artistic opportunities since graduating college


My key goal with this piece was to focus on learning some new aspects of the 3D pipeline that I did not have time to learn during school.

Dancer-Closeup
A closeup render of the character. While the clothes remained fairly simple in texture so that the audience’s perceptions weren’t over-saturated with too much detail, inversely, the character’s facial features and hair contained the most attention to detail. This way, the viewer knows exactly what is most important within the scene. Her makeup pattern is also closely reminiscent of the swirls in the background to create some parallels between the two.
Dancer Hair Length
Here I am creating a layering effect with the dancer’s hair so that everything does not appear as one entire length. The sliders allow me to cut the hair far too short so that I have options of scaling how intense those cuts were until I achieve the more subtle, natural effect I want.

Creating and shaping hair as strands rather than sculpting from a separate piece of mesh completely blew me away with the sense of actually brushing a person’s hair.

Ultimately, the biggest challenge I faced was to break the audience’s perception of a 2D background implemented as a ‘photo backdrop’ of sorts so that the 3D foreground elements did not appear out of place. To successfully achieve this effect, concepts were constantly being created and altered in order to put the focus on the main focal point, the dancer. For one, the color palette had to remain consistent for all aspects within the work, but by placing the swirls in a specific place for a specific camera angle the dancer appears much more natural than if a random gradient background was used. The movement of the 2D background is to push in while the 3D elements contrast to push out, thus creating a greater focus upon the contrasting element. I soon put more thought into how each piece works with one another rather than solely focusing on how the look individually. For example, each element compliments and pulls attention to one another until the viewer rests upon the dancer.

2D background -> 3D shatter pieces -> 3D whole pieces -> dancer

The gemstone further emphasized that straight, mostly vertical element which contrasts with the mostly circular elements surrounding the rest of the piece.

Lighter Than Air Wireframe
The wireframe of the piece from the main camera used in the rendering where the 3D parts are much more evident. The movement throughout each piece, much like the 2D background, creates a circular motion so that the viewer remains contained within the contents of the work.

Dancer Ice Shatter

This project was also my first time using the shatter effects within Maya. Instead of  retopologizing the messy topology that would be a result of my manual, carefree cutting, I was able to quickly create a more procedural and random breaking effect for the outer-most swirl because of this tool.


Dancer Lash Topo 2

To be honest, it felt as though I was dressing up a doll throughout the dancer’s creation. From painting makeup to lengthening eyelashes it certainly felt as if my years of using makeup came in handy. ♥


All in all, this piece was a great learning opportunity in 3D composition, 3D -> 2D composition, rendering, and learning more tools to make future projects more efficient. Being able to reproduce hair is an imperative skill for any 3D generalist to have under his/her belt as well as good rendering techniques to achieve the visual texture of hair.

Dancer Back
Back camera view of the original “Lighter Than Air”

Software used:

  • Maya
  • DAZ Studio
  • Zbrush
  • Marvelous Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • Photoshop
  • Keyshot
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