Vehicle Silhouettes, Sketchup & Mudbox

Our last concept art class before the holidays (more specifically before the year end presentations), Tony showed us a variety of new tools along with another silhouette exercise to help generate ideas for the upcoming brief ‘Dystopian Utopia’.

Much like the robot brief we’ll have to research dystopian vehicle design from various mediums (film, comic, tv etc), create twenty design thumbnails of our own, group crit for the best ones and then create a final design. To kick start us all in the right direction we gathered vehicle silhouettes from the internet and began to piece them together in Photoshop using any of the techniques learnt up till now.

Given the frequency we’ve been using this great technique I’ll skip the details and present to you the battle hippie wagon.


Body of the VW camper, treads from a Challenger II, gun mount from a US issue Hummer and side wheel armour taken from what looked like a basic Ford Transit. It’s a hoot doing these, I kind of switch off and see what the end result is.

Tony wanted to cover some other tools that could help us conceptualise new ideas, so all attention turned to SketchUp. Cue the video used to demonstrate it.

Naughty Dog used SketchUp during the concepting stage for Uncharted 2. The speed of modelling it allows presents the opportunity to get your designs off paper into the third dimension very fast, immediately giving you a better sense of scale. They even used it to white box certain levels, making a set of modular assets and using instances of said assets to get a rough idea of larger environments. Very very cool stuff, I plan to use my student email and get an educational copy.

Everyone loaded up SketchUp and after a brief five minute introduction we were told to have a play to try and create a vehicle shape. After the video I was expecting it to be the most straight forward, intuitive piece of software ever created, sadly I think all my time with Maya made it harder to grasp at first.

Making initial shapes is very fluid, along with simpler actions like extruding however once you make too many complex edits (especially ANY curves) it becomes impossible to edit shapes any further. So if you have some plan going in, and experience with the package, I can appreciate it being VERY fast for blocking out a model.

I tried to block out my VW van tank from earlier.


Moving on to another tool that may be useful to us, we were introduced to Mudbox. Now I’m well aware what Mudbox is, I spent some time experimenting with its competitor ‘ZBrush’ years ago when it first came out. The easiest way to describe it is digital clay sculpting.

Much like before we were given a quick five minute introduction to some of the basic tools (sculpt, flatten, smooth, wax etc) and then let loose to try and make a face.


Given how short the exercise was (three exercises crammed into two hours!) I’m somewhat pleased I ended up with something that looked like the beginnings of a head/face. I don’t want to say Mudbox seems easy as I know nothing at all about the software outside of a few minutes of tuition, so I’ll rephrase easy to intuitive.

I’ve tried real sculpting before and it’s difficult and far less forgiving than doing it digitally. Real life doesn’t have a Ctrl-Z for a start. I’m aware that Mudbox will eventually become part of the main course content and I’m looking forward to when that happens.


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