SCAD Master of Arts Final Project: The Little Mermaid
This project will provide an original, creative narrative based on a thorough examination of the existing written elements of Hans Christian Andersen's, The Little Mermaid. Using advanced computer graphics techniques, the visuals will illustrate Andersen’s origin story, revealing the beauty and complexity of the 185-year-old tale.
XGen in Maya
Beautiful Long Hair
Beautiful Long Hair
Excerpt from The Mermaid: "Then she saw her sisters rise from the water, they were as pale as she was, their beautiful long hair no longer floated on the breeze, for it had been cut off."
3D Character Artist / Grooming Artist
10.18.22 - Update
Development stages of the hair. More images and content will be added shortly breaking down my process.
Sculpting in ZBrush
Wreath of White Lilies
The Wreath of White Lilies
Excerpt from The Mermaid: "Let me adorn you like your other sisters! She put a wreath of white lilies on her head, but every petal of the flowers was half a pearl; and the old lady had eight big oysters fixed to the proncess's tail, to show her high rank...Oh how gladly the little princess would have taken off all her ornaments and the heavy wreath!"
10.9.22 - Update
I started modeling the mermaids wreath of white lilies!
Click through the Gallery to see the progression.
Making the Stamen of the Lily
There are two parts to the stamen, the anther and the filament. The anther is a pod that contains the pollen that sits on top of the filament (the long skinny stalk).
I found a tutorial online called, 5 Petals Flower Easy Step | ZBrush that I used as a guide for the creation of the filaments.
Creating the Filament
1. Create a Plane
2. Select the 'CurveTube' brush
3. Open the stroke window and select 'Curve Modifiers', select 'Intensitiy' and 'Size'
4. Draw your curves on the plane
5. Adjust the curve falloff accordingly (I changed it for every stroke I made)
6. Create as many stokes as you want
7. When you're done, delete the plane and then go to 'Subtool' > 'Split' > 'Split to Parts'
After I created the filament, I created a bunch of Spheres that would later become the anthers.
10.13.22 - Update
Today I spent some time refining the petals. I attempted to manually move the petals to fold ontop of eachother but I found that it was taking me too much time and it wasn't giving me the clean, organic look I am going for.
I found some cloth fold brushes on ArtStation from Sean Forsth that I ended up using to help create the natural fold in the flowers. For this method to work, I had to select the Cloth Fold Brush (I used Fold15), then use the DragRect stoke and drag the brush across the bottom portion of each petal to creat the organic curves. After the base curve was created, I went in with the move brush and adjusted each petal accordingly.
It's important to note that for this technique to work properly, the BackfaceMask feature in Auto Masking Brush Menu needs to be deactivated. I typically have it on so that when I'm sculpting, I don't interfear with the opposite side.
Here is a process shot of what the petals look like after I used the Cloth Fold Brush. As you can see, as the brush size increased, so did the alpha resulting in pixilation. It wasn't a big deal in this case because I was focussed more on the folding effect than the quality of the detals. To fix this, I used the smooth brush and it was good as new!
Below are before and after screenshots of one the process I described above.
Today I spent some time refining the two lilies that I have been working on. I decided to make two base lilies that I will duplicate and transform throughout the flower crown.
Before doing the uv's for the petals, I wanted to merge all the petals into one layer and reduce the poly count. The first flower had a total of 1.460 Mil active points and the second flower had 1.226 Mil Active Points.
I used Mesh Projection to decrease the polycount.
Reducing Poly Count with Mesh Projection
1. Take your high poly mesh and rename it to 'Original'
2. Duplicate the mesh and rename to 'New'
3. With your 'New' mesh selected, navigate to the Geometry menu and activate 'ZRemesher' to reduce the poly count.
4. Turn all visibilites off in the subtool except the 'Original' high poly mesh.
5. With the 'New' mesh selected, select 'Project All' at the bottom of the Subtool menu.
6. Subdivde the mesh by clicking 'CTRL + d'
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until the new geometry is at a reasonable polycount while maintaining as much of the original detail.
* Once you're done, you can select your 'New' mesh in the subtool menu and toggle between the subdivisions you just created.
Step 6 - I subdivided 3 times (active points = 18,554 > 72,228 > 296,876 > 1.187 Mil)
On the left, are the original high poly flowers and on the right are the new lower poly flowers from the mesh projection. If you scrub back and forth quickly, you can see some detail was lost in the mesh projection, but not enough to notice a huge difference.
Before and After Mesh Projection
The lily on the bottom right initially had 1.460 Mil active points. After using mesh projection, the lily had a total of 665,356 active points.
The lily on the top left initially had 1.226 Mil active points. After using mesh projection, the lily had a total of 721,420 active points.
Next, I started organzing the petals into polygroups.
I decided that each petal would be broken up into two polygroups (top and bottom).
To create the uv's I went to Zplugin > UV Master > selected Polygroups > Unwrap. I made sure to select 'Polygroups' so it was clear what polys I wanted together. Below are screenshots of the uv's in 'Flatten' mode.
I might reshuffle the uv's around a little to give a bit more padding. Some of the uv's are close to each other, and I don't want that to cause any issues down the line when texturing.
Add the stamens and start constructing the Wreath of Lilies!
Sculpting in ZBrush
*WARNING* Graphic Content
Excerpt from The Mermaid: "Put out your little tongue and I will cut it off in payment for the powerful draught..."There it is", said the witch, and thereupon she cut off the tongue of the little mermaid, who was dumb now and could neither sing nor speak."
*Some photos contain sensitive content which some people may find offensive or distrubing.
10.4.22 - Update
I started modeling the tongue that the mermaid will be holding in her hand!
I isolated the tongue's top, bottom, and back parts into polygroups, so it will be easier to add various textures to that designated since the surfaces aren't the same throughout.
For the bump texture, I used an alpha map (pictured on the bottom left). I would like to try using the alpha on the bottom right to create more character/ life to the tongue. I have been using the 'dam standard' brush to add some detail, which has been working nicely.
Particles in Houdini
There are many ways I can generate the sea foam for this project, and I have been going back and forth about which way to do it.
Right now, I am experimenting with generating the sea foam in Houdini and then using displacement maps to add even more detail! I have never used Houdini before, but Nathan Huseth, a Houdini FX Artist, finishing his M.A. degree at SCAD, has been kind enough to work with me to bring my vision to life.
If all fails or I find this is taking too much time, my backup plan is to sculpt the foam in ZBrush.
10.5.22 - Update
Below are two screenshots of the initial sea foam simulations that Nathan and I put together. In the end, the foam will be scattered around various parts of the mermaid's body. In the story, the mermaid puts sea foam over herself to hide and watch the prince on the shore from a distance. And in the end, she spares the prince's life and ends up perishing into sea foam.
For my next pass, I would like to soften up the foam a bit and see if I can mask the simulation to specific parts of the mermaid.
Hard Surface in ZBrush
Excerpt from The Mermaid: "She has given us a knife, here it is, look how sharp it is! Before the sun rises, you must plunge it into the prince's heart, and when his warm blood sprinkles your feet they will join together and grow into a tail, and you will once more be a mermaid; you will be able to come down into the water to us, and to live out your three hundred years before you are turned into dead, salt, sea-foam."
British Navy Dagger, Naval Dirk Bowie Knife
10.3.22 - Update
I chose to model the knife in Zbrush using the ZModeler feature. This is the first time I am using ZModeler for hard surface modeling, so it's taking me some time to get used to the actions.
I want to keep the minimalist, elegant look like in the references above. I think adding a head to the handle like in the Danish Navy Model 1850 Dagger Deluxe could add some excitement to the model. It's something I'm thinking about.
I'm pretty happy with the results right now and can't wait to start texturing those finer details!
10.9.22 - Update
Today I worked on finalizing the model and started retopologizing. Below are the settings that I used to retopologize the cross guard. Next I would like to make sure the blade doesn't look dull, but also doesn't look unrealistically sharp.
Finalized topology and uv's!
Character Creator 3
For the mermaid figures base, I used Character Creator which is a program that allows a seamless, efficitent generation of stylized and realistic 3d characters. Character Creator contains character generation, animation rigging, asset management, look-dev rendering, and interactive design. It also connects to industry-leading pipelines which is essential to creating this project on-time and with the most up to date technology.
The programs that I will be focussed on using for this project are Character Creator, Zbrush, Unreal 5 and Substance Painter. I have never used Character Creator before and am excited to see the power behind it!
9.28.22 - Update
Below are some screenshots of the model that I have right now. I need to get the figure to look like Andersen described while filling in any missing details with purposeful intent. In the story, she is 15 years old, so making sure to keep her proportions appropriate to her age.
Development Stages of the Female Anatomy
I found this diagram to be helpful when looking at the development stages of the female anatomy. You can see that the 14-year-old is just starting to go through puberty, so her hips and chest are not fully developed. She is beginning to form a more mature, "hourglass" figure.
"Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist" by Stephen Rogers Peck
11.1.22 - Update
Below are screenshots from character creator along with the rig that is built into the model. Having the rig already applied to the model saved me a ton of time, and made my job easier when it came to posing the figure.
Female Figure Inspiration
19th Century Denmark
The mermaid I am constructing for this project will be generated by obtaining explicit details from Andersen's original story published in 1837.
I am extracting as much information as possible from the story however, there are a lot of details Andersen leaves up to interpretation. For this project, those details will be driven by paintings, photos, and people in Andersen's life during the 19th century.
Even though some of these paintings and drawings were created after The Little Mermaid was published, they are still valuable assets to this project. The female figure has evolved over time and continues change due to specific beauty standards and ideals of the respective era.
Christoffer Eckersbery, Christen Købke, and Constantin Hansen are three painters that highlight young women in 19th century Denmark. These references will guide me in the visual development of the Mermaid character I am creating in CG.
Christoffer Eckersberg (1783-1853)
Christen Købke (1810-1848)
Constantin Hansen (1804-1880)
I created a Pinterest board with inspiration ranging from paintings, photography, illustrations, scultpures, interior design, title sequences, jewelry, fashion, and more!
Fairytales have a reputation for being light-hearted and uplifting when in reality, their origin stories are tragic and unsettling. When adapted, these stories stray from the author's original intent, presenting an artificial, highly unrealistic view of life.
Previs in Unreal
Lighting/ Composition References
Where It All Began
The Original Story (1837)
Hans Christian Andersen's, The Little Mermaid
There are many versions and translations of H.C. Andersens, The Little Mermaid. I will base my project on the text from Fairy Tales From Hans Christian Andersen published by J. M. Dent & Co and E. P. Dutton & Co, provided by Google Book Search.
Due to copyright issues I cannot post the PDF myself, but the Google Book can be found below.
The Mermaid can be found on pages 1-21.