From Blank Canvas to Sci-Fi Mining Outpost
This week we are proud to launch the Lunar Base 3D asset kit! Now you can bring 4K, AAA game quality to your worlds – whether they be on the dark side of the Moon, Mars, or any other distant planet. To demonstrate this new kit in action, we called on Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo series) Senior Digimatte Artist Evan Butler.
KitBash3D: Evan, thank you so much for joining us today. Seeing as you’re the brother of Darren, our Head of 3D, it’s clear to us that talent runs in the family! We have to ask, how is working with your brother?
Evan Butler: Our first professional experience together was at Blur Studios, where we worked on film sequences and game cinematics, including collaborating on a Star Wars project, which was quite a career highlight. It was actually amazing working with him – I learned so much from my big bro! Lots of late nights and hilarious GIFs have been shared through the years too. We work really well together, but he definitely cuts me a lot less slack! He won’t accept any excuses from me. Even so, it was a pleasure working with him on a new project. It felt just like the good ol’ days working together on this Lunar Base piece!
KitBash3D: Great to hear it’s been a positive experience! Let’s focus a bit more on you. Can you share about your career path and how you ended up at Blizzard Entertainment?
Evan: Well, as you hinted, the career path sort of runs in the family. I got my start in the very same high school program that Darren did. Learning 3ds Max there led me to a job doing ArchViz renders. That was a whirlwind. I learned so much on the job, and I even remember having dreams about 3ds Max! But I always knew I didn't want to stay in ArchViz, so I kept learning more in my spare time. I would watch Gnomon tutorials and tons of YouTube videos to help me get to the next level.
Evan: ArchViz was great though because you really are a generalist there, doing all the modeling, materials, lighting, and post work, so you get the whole gamut. Plus it’s really short, tight deadlines, so you very quickly learn the value of time management and efficiency.
Anyway, I then went on to a few other studios, doing work at MPC and Encore VFX before landing at Blur for some time. Now, I’m a senior Digimatte artist at Blizzard Entertainment.
KitBash3D: Congrats! It sounds like your hard work in your spare time paid off. What other skills and techniques did you incorporate into your approach for the Lunar Base cover art?
Evan: When I start an image, I always go straight to finding references. Usually the first thing I’m looking for is what mood I want the piece to be, what colors should be used, and what general feeling I want it to have. To me, that is what’s most important. That is where the first emotion comes into the image. And from there, I can look at details, what type of terrain, what layout to do, etc. to further inform a mood board/reference sheet to guide my image.
KitBash3D: What was the emotion or story you wanted to convey with this piece?
Evan: The story of the image really came together on its own. It obviously had to be set on some extraterrestrial location, but I didn't want it to necessarily just be the Moon, so I imagined what would take place if we colonized another planet (hurry it up Elon!). We would have to get resources for our new home, so we may have to mine the surface to obtain these materials, and that brought me to the idea of having an engineer astronaut monitoring that operation.
KitBash3D: How did the piece take shape after you settled on that direction?
Evan: First, I needed some terrain, so I made a kit I knew would fit the piece.
Evan: Darren and I had also talked early on about how it would be really cool to see a super tall tower piercing the sky, so I worked around that idea for the layout. I needed to experiment with a few different camera options so I could find one that best showed off the kit.
Evan: The biggest challenge was due to the Lunar Base kit pieces being fairly low to the ground. If I wanted to show off as many models as I could, I knew the camera had to be at a high vantage point. When we were satisfied with the perspective, it was time for some deliberate composition choices. When composing a scene, I always make sure to lead the viewer’s eye through the image, keeping in mind how some of the crops for the image may affect that.
Evan: I filled up the scene with the amazing models from Lunar Base and that part just came together with such ease! For texturing the landscape, I used Substance Painter. After that point, even though we had an idea where we wanted to go with the lighting, I still went through some other options to make sure we would love the result. Then I brought the render into Photoshop for some final post work.
KitBash3D: And it looks great! I hope your experience and process with the kit and this cover art provides some value to our readers. Before we go, what drives you to make art?
Evan: I do art to help stop the voices in my head… That is only sort of a joke! There are so many times I see something while traveling, viewing photography, or watching a movie that make me think about how it is made or how I can replicate it 3D. That inspiration puts images in my head and drives a desire to create something. The feeling of starting from nothing and then just creating an image is a wonderful feeling that keeps me coming back for more!
About Evan Butler
Evan Butler is a Senior Digimatte Artist at Blizzard Entertainment where he has worked on cinematics projects such as Love, Death & Robots, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Destiny 2: Last Call, Law Breakers, and many more. To see more of Evan’s work, check out his ArtStation or follow him on Instagram.