Demon Horse Project

Hello Journal,
I am going to begin documenting an idea that has grown into a project - I call it the Demon Horse Project (simply cause that's what I initially called it).  :)
I am constantly sketching, especially during class next to my notes....and yes, I do take notes as well!  My notebooks do tend to look more like sketchbooks though...anyways!  Moving on.
So I was sketching one day in class, and realized I had been drawing several variations of one idea...a unicorn.  It came from the love I have for unicorns and their origins, as unicorns were not initially supposed to be loveable creatures.  They were greatly feared and impossible to tame, and their horn was used for....skewering...people.
So, I was fascinated by creating one, and as I explored this idea, I did stray from unicorn mythology quite a bit.  Unicorns were deadly, but still looked beautiful.  My unicorn, however, was...well...what I call a Demon Unicorn.  At first, the horn was inspired by a rhinoceros more than anything, because it would have to be sturdy enough to tear.  I was intrigued with a horse that has a huge horn, not a small, delicate spire that looked like it could snap at any second.  The skin was falling apart and its stomach is bared, revealing internal organs, symbolizing a hunger that is never quenched.   People started asking me what it was called...and the first phrase that came to mind was "Demon Horse".  So that is what it has stayed.
Here are some of the first concepts i drew.

So this was the start.
I gathered a lot of reference and did several different versions of the model, using zsketch to get forms blocked out.  I modeled a normal horse first, using the anatomy of a Frisian horse as reference, and then I progressed to tearing it apart.  It was a lot of going back and forth between Zbrush and Maya and XSI (which I like to use for uvs) to try out several methods. So I learned how to construct horse anatomy the right way before breaking it.  This was my first project to tackle solely on my own and on my own time, and I learned a lot.
Eventually,  I came up with the final model.

The end product was very different than what I had first intended, but I am pleased with the amount of research and development i put into building the structure of a Demon Horse.  Once the uvs were nicely laid out, I was able to generate some pretty nice normal, spec, ao, and displacement maps.
The hardest part for me was talking to my rigger (Mark McCall) and making sure the topology could do what it needed to do.
Here is my low-res and mid-res models in maya :

For texture, the initial idea was to make him albino, and to use SSS shader to build up sickly skin translucency with red veins and purple bruises, coupled with blood and guts and mucus-like stuff seeping out of his crevices.  He would have blind eyes that reflected red.  His hair would turn into small flames and then billow out in smoke and ash.
After consulting with a couple of people though, it seemed that black skin with glowing, blue veins was the more popular of the two choices.  I thought about both, but ended up using the black-themed color study, and here is what I came up with.

Right now, the Demon Horse has been rigged by the most fabulous Mark McCall (go to his website HERE).  Here are some screenshots of his rig that he completed during the month of January.

Because the Demon Horse has several stages that all need to work with each other, Mark teamed up with Heith Seewald (who is our genius TD) to solve some scripting issues with guts simulations.  Here are some videos that Mark showed for his panel review:

Gut Simulation

McCall Mark Pcc2 guts - Computer from Mark McCall on Vimeo.

Breathing Simulation

McCall Mark Pcc2 breath 01 - Computer from Mark McCall on Vimeo.

Hair Test

Hair Test 1 from Mark McCall on Vimeo.

Stretchy Mouth Test

Strechy Skin Test from Mark McCall on Vimeo.

So, after all is said and done, Mark talked to John Muscarella who animated a quick run cycle for him.
So here is the one of the first Demon Horse Tests, with shading and lighting done by Jessica Colet:

Hair Test 2 from Mark McCall on Vimeo.

Render Hair Test from Mark McCall on Vimeo.

And finally, some renders:

If you would like to know more about the rigging part of this project, you can look Mark up on his BLOG.

Here is a more complete Walk cycle render of the horse with a completely different look, without hair....(because hair is still being perfected by Mark and I), and with shading and lighting done by Amber Steel and tweaked by me until i liked it.  :)