A Pipe Dream - Creating Environments with Fibermesh in Zbrush by Pixologic

From time to time photographers have to create images in which the central point of interest is almost completely surrounded by distracting clutter. This was the case for Mike Carroll on a recent shoot for Charlotte Pipe. The client needed a hero image of their iconic sign for a new campaign, but there were a lot of distractions present - faded grass, power lines, and cars, and it was a bit of a gloomy day.

Often stock photography is the first place to go in this case, but then we are limited by random camera angles, lenses, and depth of field, not to mention the biggest issue of all - lighting. Probably the biggest challenge in using purchased stock scenery is that while you may find a beautiful image, the lighting usually is either a bit off, or a world apart from what you want to match it with. 

I decided this would be a great time to experiment with creating 3D grass. I'd been wanting to try out Fibermesh, a great feature in Zbrush, a 3D sculpting application made by Pixologic. Fibermesh allowed me to paint with a mask on a flat plane and turn that mask into thousands of blades of grass. The beauty of this method is that I was able to match Mike's camera angle, field of view, and even add some creative depth of field using a depth pass in Photoshop. 

The benefits of utilizing 3D assets in your 2D composites is undeniable. Having the ability to match a static image with a 3D camera, adjust lighting to match the original and render color, depth, and shadow in separate passes for maximum freedom is empowering to any retoucher or designer. 

Masking a 3D sphere in Zbrush. Now let's find a Fibermesh preset for blades of grass.

After a few seconds of tweaking max fibers and coverage...  We have grass. How cool is that?